Thank you to Jennifer Cropp, MD from North Scottsdale Pediatrics for providing resources for this post.
As parents, we dread flu season. We hate to see our children sick, and we as parents just don’t have time to be sick. No matter how hard we will the season away and prepare with flu shots and extra hand washing, it will come. Even if you’ve had a flu shot, there is still a chance you’ll get the flu. So, here are some things you should know about the flu, visits to the Emergency Department or Pediatrician for flu symptoms, and possible flu treatments.
- Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by the flu VIRUS, which means antibiotics do not have any affect on this kind of illness. Also, many people think that gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) is the flu because people refer to it as the stomach flu. However, this is different than influenza which is predominantly a respiratory illness (not to say you can’t still have some vomiting or looser stools with influenza).
- Typical symptoms outlined by the CDC include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness), and poor appetite. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. These symptoms typically come on suddenly.
- Most flu cases in healthy individuals will resolve on their own in under 2 weeks. Exceptions would include individuals with weakened or underdeveloped immune systems who are more susceptible to flu complications, like children under 5 years old, asthmatics, pregnant women, and elderly. (See CDC’s full list of those at higher risk for developing complications). Healthy individuals can manage the flu at home with fluids, rest, and over-the-counter meds for symptom relief if over 4 years old.
- If you go to your doctor or the emergency department for flu-like symptoms, you may not be tested for the flu or even treated. Here’s why…The flu is running rampant right now and there is a national shortage on flu testing kits. Therefore, if it seems like a non-complicated flu, and other illnesses have been ruled out, the physician probably won’t use one of the nasal swab kits to test as it won’t change the treatment plan. As for treatment of the flu, you may have heard of Tamiflu. It’s an antiviral medicine for the flu virus. However, this medicine must be started within 48 hours of the first sign of flu symptoms – so you may have already missed the window by the time you get to the doctor. The other thing you should know is that the medicine only seems to shorten the symptoms by about 24 hours. It will not make you feel better as soon as you take it. As you can imagine, there’s a shortage for Tamiflu too. Remember, in healthy individuals, the flu will resolve on its own and can be treated with fluids, rest, and over-the-counter meds for symptom relief if over 4 years old.
- If you have determined you should see a doctor, you can call your primary care physician/pediatrician for a sick appointment. However, if you or your child are experiencing flu symptoms with respiratory distress, dehydration, or significant lethargy, these are all reasons to be evaluated in emergency department. Otherwise, you may want to avoid the emergency department as you’ll be exposed to all of the other patients’ illnesses while you’re there. Use your best judgement.
- It’s not too late to get the flu shot! So check with your pediatrician or local pharmacy if you or your child is still looking to get one.
Keep those hands washed and stay well!