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The Complete Parents’ Guide to Influenza

As a parent, you’re constantly looking for better ways to nurture and protect your child. Influenza should definitely be on the list of things to gear up against! This illness is usually talked about casually and even mixed up with the common cold, but the reality is that influenza can be still be dangerous. Every parent should learn how they can prevent the flu and treat their children if necessary.

What is the Flu?

Influenza, known commonly as “the flu” is an illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the:

  • Nose
  • Throat
  • Lungs

Influenza causes illness, hospital stays and deaths in our country every single year. Unfortunately, there are many unique, constantly changing strains of the virus, which is why it’s important to get vaccinated each year.

Doctor gives boy the flu vaccine

There are three main viruses under which all the different strains fall: types A, B, and C. The first two are responsible for causing the usual epidemics of the flu, and type B is usually milder than type A. All flu viruses typically strike during flu season, from December to early April.

The flu is more than a simple cold or run-of-the-mill runny nose. It can be dangerous even in perfectly healthy adults, and its power to harm more vulnerable groups of people such as children and the elderly is even greater.

Every year, about 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized because of the flu or complications arising from influenza, such as pneumonia.

Symptoms of the flu include the following:

  • Body aches
  • Chills and shakes
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Exhaustion
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sudden fever, typically above 101°F
  • Vomiting and/or nausea

Protecting Your Child

The flu isn’t extremely serious in most cases, but why risk it? It’s miserable for your little one, and you certainly don’t want your child to be one of the cases for whom things do turn serious. As with many aspects of life, your best defense is a great offense.

Prevention

Influenza spreads very easily among small children. Their immune systems are still more fragile and they’re around other potentially infected children almost every day if they’re school-aged. That being said, the flu is very preventable overall.

Here are some ways to prevent your child from getting the flu:

  • Have him or her get a flu shot! Children under 9 will receive two shots a month apart the first year they get one. Both should be administered before the start of flu season.
  • Have everyone else in your family get flu shots too. Bonus: you and your spouse will be protected as well!
  • Teach your children how to cover their nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing to prevent the general spread of any viruses including influenza
  • Teach your child to blow his or her nose properly and to throw away used facial tissue immediately
  • Make sure your child washes his or her hands after coming in contact with someone who has the flu, although it is obviously best they aren’t around sick people in the first place
  • Encourage good general hygiene
  • Be proactive about disinfecting surfaces like doorknobs around your home, especially if you know other kids at your child’s school have had the flu
  • Don’t smoke around your child. It will make them more prone to coughing and wheezing, which will make their flu last longer if they do contract it. (Plus, it’s bad for them in general!)

Make sure to always check in with your pediatrician before making any changes to your child’s health routine!

Treatment

If your little one does get the flu, you can have your pediatrician prescribe antiviral agents. However, these are only only effective for type A influenza and if they are administered within the first day or two of the illness.

Sometimes antiviral agents can be taken as a preventative measure before exposure to the flu; for example, if one of your children has influenza and you don’t want the others to get sick. This is particularly important for children with other health conditions who have not been immunized.

Make sure to run any nonprescription medication ideas by your child’s pediatrician as well. Some things you assume are harmless might not be. For example, taking aspirin while infected with a virus can increase your child’s risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, a serious illness affecting the liver and brain.

Never give your children aspirin if you think there’s even a slight chance they have the flu!

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are typically safe options when given in the appropriate age/weight doses. However, the latter should never be given to a child who is dehydrated or vomiting.

The best rule to abide by is running everything by your pediatrician. When it comes to your little one’s health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Some other ways to care for your kiddos when they have the flu include:

  • Lots of bed rest
  • Extra water and other fluids
  • Easy-to-digest light meals

Be sure to call your pediatrician if anything seems amiss. This includes symptoms such as:

  • Ear pain
  • Blue lips or nails
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A cough that lasts more than a week
  • Congestion of the face or head
  • A fever over 3 days in duration
  • If your baby is 3 months old or younger, call your pediatrician if they have a fever at all

Of course, this list is only meant to serve as a set of general guidelines. Trusting your gut and observing your child closely are both important.

Mom treats daughter who came down with the flu

We tend to recommend that err on the side of caution in these situations.

Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed the The Parents’ Guide to Influenza! It’s important to educate yourself on children’s health topics, so taking the time to read through this guide was a proactive move. If you’re here because your child currently has the flu, we’d like to let you know that we are doing our part here at Accord Clinical Research to help prevent and treat the flu in children. Your child can be a part of that mission! If you’d like to see whether your child qualifies for an influenza clinical trial, you can call us at (386) 760-7272 or check out our influenza trial page for more information.

Want to know why we need kids for clinical research? You can get the scoop on our sister site’s blog!

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