December 28, 2014

Dealing With Flu Season

by Angela Castillo

Any parent who has dealt with sick children knows that moment. Your active, energetic child suddenly lays down on the couch and declares “Mommy, I don’t feel good.” You feel their forehead, and it’s warm. They complain of a headache. And these little warning signs start tickling the back of your mind.

Could it be the flu? It’s flu season. Didn’t that kid from the play date just have the flu?

My family has just gone through a bout with the flu, and while it’s no fun, it can be survived. Here are some tips to help. (Please note, my information has been gathered from official websites, health professionals and personal experience. I am not a health professional and any medical questions should be taken to someone in the medical field.)

Preventing the Flu

I’m not even going to talk about the flu vaccine because I know it’s a hot topic, but it is recommended by every health website I have found. But most sources have said this year’s strain is especially stubborn, so it’s best to be prepared even if your family has had their yearly shots.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season starts in December and generally runs through February, though it has been known to last through May. (Yuck! Who wants that?)

Most people agree the flu virus is spread by droplets, when people cough, sneeze or talk. The virus can be spread up to six feet away and can live on a hard surface for up to 48 hours. It is extremely contagious. Most people exposed to flu will show signs of sickness within 1-4 days.


How Do You Know You Have the Flu?

I was pretty sure the kids had the flu for several reasons. The first? A fever that hit all of a sudden and spiked quickly. Another sign, even though they had coughs, they didn’t have a ton of congestion. Also, they complained of headaches and chill. It hit so fast, literally, one hour they were fine and the next they looked like tiny, shivering invalids.

The only way to know for sure if you have the flu is to go in to the doctor and get a flu test, which isn’t usually necessary and doesn’t always help because the flu is a virus and unless it’s caught quickly, they can’t do much to help it. If it’s caught within the first 48 hours, there are medicines they can prescribe that may or may not help.

Flu Complications

Did you know Dell Children’s Hospital has a service where you can call in anytime, list your child’s symptoms, and they will recommend if you need to bring them to the hospital or not? I called a nurse on the first night, since my child had a 103 degree temperature. She recommended I take him to the doctor. So my husband took my children into a clinic on Sunday where they were diagnosed with flu. One child also had pneumonia, while the other child had strep throat. The doctor told my husband he had seen 24 children in Bastrop the day before with a flu-pneumonia combo. While flu can’t always be treated, pneumonia, of course, must be, so if you feel like something just ‘isn’t quite right,’ it’s better to be safe then sorry.

Other complications can be bronchitis and ear infections.

If you must take your child to a clinic or hospital, make sure you both wear masks, which are usually provided. Also, take snacks and some bottled water, since dehydration is a major danger in flu and you might be there a few hours, especially if every other kid in town is there for the same reason.

Warning Signs

Again, check with a health professional if you are trying to decide weather or not to take your child to the doctor or the emergency room. Here are some of the warning flags I was told about:

  • Temperatures over 104 degrees that will not come down with fever reducers. (This can vary according to child’s age and size)
  • Dehydration (signs can also vary by age and size)
  • Extreme lethargy, inability to rouse from sleep
  • Blueness around mouth, trouble breathing

Flu Treatment

I won’t go into too much flu treatment, since that’s best to leave to the doctors, but warm baths helped my kids a lot. I have vats of soap and made them wash hands constantly. Popsicles are also a good way to help them cool off and get liquids.

The good thing about the flu: It doesn’t last forever and everyone will (hopefully) feel better in a week or so. The most important thing is to stay home, away from everyone else, and rest!

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