It’s never convenient or easy to cope with illness, but for families with young children it can be an especially difficult time. School days are missed and parents often have to shuffle their schedules to care for sick children. There’s also the constant worry of illness becoming more serious or being spread to vulnerable friends and relatives.
Complicating matters more is the fact that there are many misconceptions about what the flu really is.
“When people talk about having ‘the flu’ they can be talking about anything from a day of feeling under the weather to a stomach bug to a reason a family member was hospitalized. When doctors say ‘the flu’ we mean the influenza virus— the one that caused the deaths of more than 25 million people in 2 years,” says parenting expert and board-certified family physician Deborah Gilboa. “It’s no wonder people are confused about what this illness is and isn’t.”
Dr. G, as she’s known because of her popular parenting blog, Ask Doctor G, is here to clear up some common misconceptions about kids and flu. Since this year’s flu season is reported to be a serious one, these tips might just come in handy. Remember to consult your own health care provider for medical advice with any questions or concerns you may have this flu season!
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Influenza Rarely = Just GI Symptoms (if at all) 1 of 7People often complain that they have the flu when they really have a gastrointestinal (GI) virus. According to the CDC, flu symptoms include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue. "The flu almost always has a high fever and muscle aches. It lasts for more than a week at least! Anything shorter may have been awful but it wasn't influenza," says Dr. G.
Tamiflu Only Works in the First 48 Hours 2 of 7The antiviral drug Tamiflu is perceived by some as being a wonder drug for treating flu. While it has been shown to reduce the duration of the flu, it is only effective if given in the first 48 hours after the onset of symptoms.
Honey Can Help Those Ages 1 and Up with Cough 3 of 7"The honey that works best is buckwheat honey (as opposed to clover), and is better for kids over 1 and adults than any over the counter cough medicine," according to Dr. G.
The Flu Shot Doesn’t Give You the Flu 4 of 7"The vaccine against influenza comes in a shot and a nasal spray.The shot has dead virus and it can not cause infection. The nasal spray has weak live virus, which can cause mild infection only in the nose itself where the temperature is cooler, not inside the body. Some of the side effects of the flu vaccine can mimic the flu with very mild symptoms that last no more than a couple of days. The vaccine takes two weeks to protect you - if you catch the influenza virus in the first two weeks after getting the vaccine, you're likely to get the disease," says Dr. G.
Anitbiotcs Don’t Work Unless You Have a Secondary Bacterial Infection 5 of 7Because influenza is a virus and antibiotics fight bacterial infections, they aren't an effective treatment for the flu. Taking unnecessary antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance, which makes it more difficult to fight infections.
Visit WebMD for more information about flu and antibiotics.
Vaccine History Matters 6 of 7For children under 8 who have never had the flu shot, they should get 2 shots one month apart. Keep track of vaccine records so you know how much your child needs.
For more information about dosing see the CDC website.
Fever is Your Friend 7 of 7According to Dr. G, "The body makes the inner temperature rise in order to kill the germs infecting it. A temperature of up to 104 is really useful! Only bring down a fever under doctor's orders or if a child is too sick to drink well. Using a fever-and pain-reducer to help with throat pain or head pain is fine, and the fever will come down as a result. But if you can leave the fever alone (assuming the child is drinking and urinating well), the person will get better sooner."
Many parents are also concerned about febrile seizures."Febrile seizures are not caused by how high the temperature goes. The seizure is caused by the rate of rise - meaning how fast the fever comes on," says Dr. G. "It's impossible to prevent this with fever-reducing medicine because you'd have to be psychic to know when a child might get a fever! The good news is, though febrile seizures can be scary to watch, they cause no long term effects."
More by Mary Lauren