It’s that time of year again. The kids are back in school one minute and the next, home sick with the sniffles or worse, the flu. Seasonal influenza is a virus that infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs). The flu season is usually from October to April. Symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, runny nose, congestion, cough, sore throat, headache and body aches. Some patients experience vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults).
A cold is a bit different. It comes with a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, cough, hoarse voice or swollen glands in the neck. A fever can sometimes accompany a cold, but usually does not last longer than three to four days. Throat and nose symptoms typically last 7-14 days, while the cough can remain for 2-3 weeks. Colds are caused by viruses, and therefore cannot be treated with antibiotics. Transmission of colds is by hand-to-hand contact, sneezing, and coughing.
Cold & Flu Prevention
- The CDC recommends a flu shot for all children 6 months and older and everyone in the household.
- Be vigilant in monitoring and maintaining your child’s health during cold and flu season. Complications from viruses like a cold and flu may be more severe for children with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
- Teach your child to wash their hands often with warm water and soap. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel can also aid in prevention.
- Teach children to sneeze into the crook of the elbow and keep their hands away from their nose, eyes, and mouth.
- Keep childhood vaccinations current. This can help reduce your child’s chances of infection.
- Make sure your child is getting enough hours of sleep for their age.
- Help your child eat a healthy well-balanced diet with five helpings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Also, encourage your child to be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day.
In the event the flu or a cold hits your house, rest, fluids, and time are the best treatments. If your child is 5 years or older, does not have chronic health problems, and gets flu symptoms consult your doctor only as needed. Children younger than 5 years of age – especially younger than 2 years – and children with certain chronic health problems (such as asthma, diabetes, and neurological disorders) are at higher risk of serious flu complications. Call our office to schedule an appointment or come during our walk-in hours right away if they develop flu symptoms.
Be extremely cautious about giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Consult with your pediatrician prior to administering medicine. Using a humidifier and nasal saline rinses can help with congestion. Give your child lots of fluids and make sure your they get plenty of rest. Stick to quiet activities. Children with the flu should stay home to rest and to avoid spreading flu to other children or caregivers. Children may return to school/daycare after being fever-free for 24 hours.