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Ask the Pediatrician

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When symptoms mean it’s the flu

By Dr. Rhonda Patt
Dr. Rhonda Patt
Dr. Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic and past president of the Charlotte Pediatric Society.

Q: I hear about flu-related deaths in the state and become so worried about anyone in our family getting the flu. However, I don’t want to rush to the doctor at the first sign of a sniffle.

A: Influenza season is here. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 35 states were reporting widespread flu activity as of Jan. 4.

Influenza is a respiratory virus. Symptoms include fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, headache, cough, muscle aches and fatigue. Most cases resolve with rest, fluids and fever reducers as needed. In certain instances, antiviral medications (such as Tamiflu) may be recommended.

During the peak of flu season, doctor’s offices and urgent cares often become overwhelmed. The following guidelines may help parents decide when it is necessary to contact their doctor and when it is okay to wait it out.

High-risk individuals should contact their health care provider within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. This high-risk group would include those who:

• Are under the age of 5 (especially age 2 and younger) or over 65.

• Have asthma, diabetes, morbid obesity or other chronic health problems, including cardiac or neurologic disorders.

• Take daily aspirin therapy for any reason.

• Are pregnant or less than 2 weeks postpartum.

• Reside in a nursing home or long-term care facility.

For healthy individuals between the ages of 5 and 65, seek medical advice and treatment immediately if they are experiencing:

• Irritability.

• Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing.

• Gray or bluish skin discoloration.

• Lethargy.

• Signs of dehydration: decreased urine output and inadequate fluid intake.

• Recurrent vomiting.

• Fever that persists beyond the third day of illness.

• Fever and cough that improved initially but returns or worsens several days into the illness (this could be a sign of developing pneumonia).

For more information, visit cdc.gov.

Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic. Email living@charlotteobserver.com; put “pediatrician” in the subject line.
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