Ahhhhh…choooo! Oh boy! Here comes Cold/Flu season. Always a good time… cough, cough. I’ll never forget the joys of my whole family getting the flu three years ago when I was pregnant. There was, um, barfing galore and no person in their right mind would come help us because they didn’t want to catch it! Somehow we managed to avoid it the next two years (read: the flu shot actually worked those years) but colds are always inevitable. To get the best approach for treating the good times of sick season, Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Gregg Alexander. Plus! Answers to all of this season’s flu questions, such as will the Swine Flu be a concern and what is THE shot of the season to (knock on wood) avoid the flu, when to treat a fever and when to let it do its job and more.
Is Swine Flu a threat again this season?
The possibility of getting Swine Flu this season does still exist, however, because the flu varies (mutates) so rapidly from year to year, it is very difficult to know just which version of it will be most aggressive and most prominent.
So we should be vaccinated for Swine Flu again?
In my opinion, the best way to avoid the threat of Swine Flu this season is to get vaccinated early. Each year the vaccine is updated in an attempt to protect you and your children from any new strains of the virus, so it is important to get vaccinated yearly.
For any children under 9 getting their first-ever flu vaccine, it is important to note that they will need two shots, a month apart, to prime their immune systems. Only one shot will be needed every year after.
Will vaccinations be hard to get again this year?
The CDC and manufacturers have worked hard in the past year or so to ensure that there is enough of the vaccine(s) available for those who need it. It is impossible to know what will happen, so my recommendation is to get vaccinated early. Already, flu vaccine is being delivered to doctors offices, pharmacies, and health departments.
Do we need to get a trifecta–whooping, flu, and Swine Flu vaccination?
You and your children should only need to get one flu shot this year, because the so-called “Swine Flu” virus has been addressed in this year’s regular flu vaccine. (Again, though, unless you have a child under 9 getting their first-ever flu vaccine, in which case they need two flu shots, a month apart, to prime their immune systems).
Yes, whooping cough has been making a comeback since people have started to neglect getting their shots as they should. I strongly urge all children, young adults, and parents to get their whooping cough vaccines updated if they haven’t been.
Will hospitals put another limitation on visitors? (Last year, at many hospitals, siblings weren’t allowed to visit when a baby was born due to the Swine Flu– will this happen again this year?)
The flu virus changes rapidly, so there’s just no way to be sure what variant will be most active this year – the so-called “Swine Flu” or, perhaps, other versions. If there is a flu outbreak of any version in a hospital, they may implement visitation policies; however, this may vary widely from hospital to hospital.
What is the best way to prevent colds and the flu?
Probably the most important thing you can do to help prevent your children from catching and spreading germs is teach them to wash their hands, well and often. Hand sanitizers help, too, if soap and water aren’t available. It is also important to make sure that they are drinking plenty of fluids (no caffeine) to maintain good hydration, getting sufficient sleep, eating a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and maintaining regular physical activity/exercise, which all work to bolster the immune system and its ability to defend against infections. To help prevent flu, I also recommend a flu shot for children (in fact, for everyone) over the age of 6 months as we begin to enter the flu season.
What is the difference between a cold and the flu and what is the best way to treat the symptoms of each?
The symptoms for the common cold and the flu are often very similar which can make it difficult to tell them apart. Usually, they can include congestion, a runny nose, headache, and a sore throat. However, with the flu, symptoms may be a bit more severe and may also include a fever, more of the whole body aches and pains, as well as an upset stomach. With the flu, you will generally look and feel sicker and symptoms may come on faster and last longer than with just a cold.
When a fever happens, isn’t it the body fighting infection? Is it best to let the fever run its course? When should it be treated?
A fever is a part of the body’s immune system response to fighting off infections; the immune system works better at a higher temperature and most viruses work less well at higher temperatures. As long as your child isn’t too uncomfortable or the fever isn’t getting too high, allowing the fever to persist can actually help fight off the germs. If your child is having difficulty sleeping because of their fever or if he or she is just plain miserable, you want to provide some relief. You have a couple of choices: one is children’s acetaminophen and one is children’s ibuprofen. I personally think Children’s Advil®, which contains the active ingredient ibuprofen, is often a more effective way to reduce a child’s fever. It lasts 6 to 8 hours and has a faster time to relief.
However, if your child’s temperature gets above 103-104 degrees Fahrenheit, I would suggest that parents call their child’s pediatrician.
Any other suggestions for effective ways to treat a fever?
First and foremost, you want to make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. It is also important that you do not pile on too many blankets or dress them in too much clothing to “sweat it out” because this can lead to overheating.
Again, if your child is extremely miserable with a fever, Children’s Advil® has been proven to fight fever faster and longer than other treatments.
Anything else you’d like to add to help families fight colds and the flu this season?
If parents are looking online for more information, I would recommend that they visit www.ChildrensAdvilSolutions.com where they can find some simple tips on how to help prevent and treat children’s colds and flu during the back-to-school and fall season. I was impressed at the collection of solid tips they have assembled; I think most parents will be, too.
To fight a cold from Advil‘s site:
Dealing with a runny nose
There’s not much you can do about a runny nose except for periodically clearing it for easier breathing. It is best to have your child blow his/her nose. Have them put a tissue over their nose, close one nostril and gently blow the other side for three to five seconds. Then switch sides and repeat.
Stopping the stuffiness
Stuffy noses are a common symptom of colds. But you can help clear your child’s nasal passages by putting three drops of warm tap water into the nasal passages and using cotton swabs to wipe out loosened mucus.
Soothe that sore throat and cough
Help relieve your child’s sore throat by giving your child warm saltwater to gargle. If your child is over four years of age, try giving him or her cough drops.
Loss of appetite
When your child has a cold, it’s important that he or she doesn’t become dehydrated. Encourage him or her to consume lots of fluids even if the child doesn’t feel like eating or drinking. Chicken noodle soup is a favorite of many kids.
For both colds and flu:
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Get adequate rest in a well-ventilated room.
- Use a vaporizer to increase the humidity in the air – this will help loosen mucus and relieve a dry throat (be sure to clean the vaporizer after each use).
- Cover your nose and mouth with your arm (not hands) while coughing or sneezing; wash your hands frequently to avoid the spread of germs.
- Use paper tissues that you can discard after use instead of cloth handkerchiefs to avoid giving the virus to others.
- Consult a healthcare professional for additional information.
Breezy Tip: Check out Alex’s product picks for conquering the flu — click here!
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Dr. Gregg Alexander is a practicing pediatrician at Madison Pediatrics in London, Ohio. He is very involved in local healthcare and community affairs, active at both a state and national level in the advancement of healthcare information technology, and most recently, he became the CMO for Health Nuts Media which uses animations, games, and apps to help children understand health issues on their level. Happily married, he’s the proud father of two sons.