Rhonda Patt

Ask the pediatrician: Kids & flu

Most cases of influenza will resolve with symptomatic treatment: rest, fluids, and fever reducers as needed. But be alert for signs of complications.
Most cases of influenza will resolve with symptomatic treatment: rest, fluids, and fever reducers as needed. But be alert for signs of complications. Getty Images/iStockphoto

I have a 6 month-old infant, and I am concerned about flu season. How will I know when flu season has started? And what do I do if she has symptoms of the flu?

Flu season is upon us, and this is a perfect time for all parents to start thinking about flu prevention and treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), North Carolina is reporting widespread influenza-like activity which is typically a sign that an increased number of influenza cases is soon to follow.

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

Certain people are at a higher risk for complications related to influenza and should seek medical attention right away. This risk group includes people who:

  • Are under the age of 5 years (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 post-partum
  • Reside in a nursing home or long-term care facility

For healthy individuals between the ages of 5 years and 65 years of age, the following would be indications for seeking medical advice and treatment immediately:

  • 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)

Although we are already in the early parts of flu season, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are still the best way to prevent influenza.

Weekly flu updates are available at www.cdc.gov.

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