Childhood Diseases Common Illnesses Flu

“Flu” is a broad term covering illnesses caused by various influenza viruses. Swine flu and bird flu are two variations that have been noted recently, but seasonal flu is the common version most people are aware of. While the flu is not often serious, it can cause complications in certain people. Some demographics of the population are encouraged to obtain the flu vaccine yearly.

Flu Symptoms

The flu is different than a cold. Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Body Aches
  • Chills
  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore Throat.

In H1N1, or swine flu, you may also see vomiting and diarrhea.

Seasonal Flu - Seasonal Flu Symptoms in Children

More About the Flu

Most flu symptoms disappear within approximately five days, but fatigue and cough could continue for a week or more. It’s important to monitor the flu, as it can lead to serious illnesses such as pneumonia or other complications. Infants, senior citizens and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.

The flu is contagious. People with the flu are contagious from about a day before symptom onset until symptoms have gone away. The flu is spread through fluid droplets filled with the virus, usually through sneezing or coughing.

Flu Vaccine

There is a vaccine for the flu. The flu shot is usually given between September and mid-November. It offers those who receive it about an 80 percent reduced chance of catching the flu during flu season. Flu shots are not a guarantee that you won’t get the flu. However, those who do catch the flu after getting the shot typically experience much milder symptoms than those who do not get the vaccine.

The flu vaccine contains weakened live flu viruses, so those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women shouldn’t get the shot. The flu shot will only offer protection for one season, and each year’s vaccine is manufactured to fight the influenza viruses that are most common. That being said, yearly vaccinations are necessary. Children under the age of nine will need two vaccinations, given a month apart.

It’s recommended that kids between the ages of 6 months and 18 years get yearly vaccinations, as well as those over 50, healthcare workers and those with chronic health issues.

Prevention and Treatment

In addition to obtaining the flu vaccine, you can take other steps to lower your family’s risk of getting the flu. Some of these are the following:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze
  • Never share cups or silverware
  • Stay home if you think you have the flu
  • Wash hands frequently.

There’s no real treatment for most cases of the flu. Be sure to get rest and drink lots of fluids. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and body aches, but avoid aspirin, as it’s linked to Reye’s Syndrome, which can cause liver failure or death. Call your doctor if you think symptoms are worsening, or if your child has an extremely high fever or trouble breathing.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff (n.d.) Seasonal influenza (flu). Retrieved December 17, 2009, from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.

Flu Staff. (n.d.). About the flu. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from the Flu.gov Web site: http://www.flu.gov/individualfamily/about/index.html.

Hirsch, L., MD (2008). Infections: Influenza (flu). Retrieved December 17, 2009, from the KidsHealth Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/flu.html#.