Influenza and Your Children

What is the flu?

Influenza is more dangerous than the common cold for children.  It is an acute respiratory illness caused by Influenza A or B viruses.  Influenza infection occurs in distinct outbreaks every year, mainly in the winter months.  The attack rate of influenza varies year to year based on the susceptibility of the population, ranging from 10 to 40%.  The influenza virus is unique every year due to changes in its two surface antigens called H & N.  The flu virus is spread primarily through person to person contact.  It may also be spread through contact with contaminated objects called fomites (toys, doorknob, etc.) and inhalation of virus laden aerosols (coughing, sneezing).

How can the flu affect my child?

Common symptoms of uncomplicated influenza are listed below.

  • Fever – 95 percent (50 percent fever >39°C [102.2°F]
  • Cough – 77 percent
  • Rhinitis – 78 percent (runny nose)
  • Headache – 26 percent (among children 3 to 13 years of age)
  • Myalgia – 7 percent (among children 3 to 13 years of age)

Additional symptoms include fatigue, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite.

Most people will recover from infection in several days to less than 2 weeks. However, children with underlying chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, neurologicaldisorders, kidney disease and metabolic disorders have more complications. Children immunosuppressed from medications are also a higher risk.

Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from the flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either the influenza virus infection alone or from co-infection of the flu virus and bacteria.  Other possible serious complications triggered by the flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabomyolsis) tissues, and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure).  Flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection.  Flu can also make chronic medical problems worse.  For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic heart disease may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by the flu.

What can I do for my child?

Children under 5 years old are at the most risk, especially children under 2.  The best way to prevent this infection is through receiving the vaccine.

Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as mach as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.  (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

The Live Virus Flu Mist is NOT recommended this year due to concerns about its effectiveness.  The recommended vaccine is the I/QIV or Inactivated Quadrivalent Vaccine.  This product is approved starting at 6 months of age.  Our vaccine is preservative free up until three years of age, at which time the vaccine is not preservative free and is given via IM injection.  Please contact our office with any further questions or to schedule with one of our flu clinics.