***Join us tomorrow evening for a FREE webinar! To learn more and reserve your spot, click here!***
Let’s be honest: I’ve been missing MY friends at school pick up because of the nasty flu this year that many of the kids and moms I know are catching. Even worse, they have been vaccinated, so what gives? A Breezy Mama Go-to favorite pediatrician Dr. Gillin answers this question, plus the symptoms to look out for with this year’s strain, how to treat it and more.
Seriously, what is up with the flu that is going around!? Why are kids who have had the flu shot catching it?
Yes- you may have noticed that the flu is here! And although you do not see it on the news every time you turn on the TV this year, it is definitely present and active. There are multiple illnesses circulating though (as with every winter). We are seeing kids with Influenza, but also with different stomach “flu’s” (not Influenza but stomach viruses such as rotavirus- that just took on the name “flu” to confuse everyone), parainfluenza (can cause similar symptoms, as well as croup), and common colds.
The flu shot is actually pretty effective this year. Every year, the flu vaccine includes 2 Influenza A’s and one B- this year one of the Influenza A is last years H1N1. Much of this year’s influenza activity is the same stuff that is in this year’s flu vaccine. So- there are a couple reasons why kids who got the vaccine may still get the “flu”: they could have a different virus (parainfluenza, or another virus), they may not have had the complete series of the vaccine (for kids under 9 years, 2 doses are recommended the first year), or it maybe ( less likely) a different flu strain.
I will not know the final numbers in terms of how effective the vaccine was this year until the season is over, but anyone can look at it at www.cdc.gov.
I’ve heard of kids having a fever, even vomiting, then the fever is gone the next day and the child is fine. AND THEN, the fever returns again a few days later. Is that really the same illness or is it a coincidence and they caught something new?
Influenza usually presents as a continuous illness, so it is probably more likely that they caught something else.
Having said that, a child is not considered “fever-free” until they have not had a fever for a good 24 hours. I have many patients who seem alright- then spike a fever in the evening.
What are the symptoms of this season’s flu?
So far the typical influenza symptoms: high fevers, body aches, sore throat, and cough. You can have other respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, but much much less commonly throwing up or diarrhea. (throwing up and diarrhea are usually the stomach bug, not influenza).
How long does it generally last?
The whole illness usually last about one week. The fever usually lasts 3-5 days. But symptoms, severity, and length of illness can vary.
Do the symptoms vary in adults?
Adults usually have the typical fever and body aches, and chills. In young children it can be more variable. In young children Influenza can appear as a nonfebrile cold, or as a fever without many other symptoms.
At what temperature does a fever become a concern, as in, head to the doctor or urgent care for kids ages 2 and up?
I would say if a true fever is over 104, seek urgent care. (If you just saw the doctor, and know you have the flu, then you might speak to your doctor first before rushing to the Emergency Department (ED)).
Now a true fever is the reading that shows up on the rectal or axillary (arm pit) temperature. Do not add degrees. I think the forehead thermometer correlates with a “fever”, but not accurately with the exact number.
What about babies 3 months and up?
I actually think babies 3 months and up should be evaluated for a fever more than 101- now if it comes down with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and your child looks happy, not lethargic, no difficulty in breathing, and not dehydrated then they can probably wait until the morning- call your doctor for an appointment. But if over 104 I would not wait, then go to the ED right away.
Any child under 3 months, should be taken to the doctor for a fever – is that correct?
Yes, and right away. Like even at 3am- to the ED. Any fever over 100.4 for babies less than 3 months old.
(Note that if a child is not fully vaccinated, they may need to seek medical care more quickly even if their child is older).
How is this flu treated?
Usually with good old fashion rest, and fluids. I highly encourage people to stay in bed and rest. Ibuprofen as needed. And lots of fluids- water, vitamin/rehydration drinks (ask your doc for their preference), OJ, and soups.
There are anti-viral, specifically anti-influenza, medications that should be discussed with your doctor if you have Influenza. I typically use Tamiflu, sometimes Relenza. It should be used for people at high risk (young babies, asthmatics, chronic conditions). Everyone does not need to take antivirals, and the risks/ benefits should be discussed with your doc.
What can moms do at home to ease symptoms?
I love ibuprofen and acetaminophen. And allow your children to rest. That doesn’t mean they cannot get up and play if they feel good- but they shouldn’t go to school, playdates, gyms. Not only so other people do not get sick, but also because kids want to rest when they are sick.
You know I totally believe in limiting the TV, and eating healthy- BUT when your child has the flu, it is probably okay to pass the time with the TV and some Gatorade (for kids over 2 years).
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes- the thing I most worry about influenza is that although it is usually a self limiting illness, it can have serious complications such as pneumonia and neurologic complications. So, if your child has the flu, and has labored breathing (in the chest, not a snotty nose), altered mental status, lethargy (not responsive), or seems dehydrated then you should seek urgent medical attention. Again, this is rare- but needs to be treated quickly.
Also- there is a rapid test for influenza that many offices have. It takes about 10 minutes, and most can differentiate between influenza A and B. This may be helpful to start antiviral medications. I like to know if someone has the flu- because I know what to expect over the next several days.
Lastly, be mindful of spreading illness. Kids should not go back to school until they are fever free for 24 hours. The fact is that the virus is shed for several days before the illness starts, to 7 days after. SO….wash your hands, hand sanitize, and limit exposures until this season winds down. It is OK to cancel a playdate if someone has, or just had a fever or the flu.
And don’t forget- the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age. You can still get one. And do not forget next year. I typically get mine in October- well before the flu season starts. It takes a bit for the vaccine to be effective- so get it well before it shows up on the news.
***Join Breezy Mama and Positive Parenting Solutions (as seen on the Today show) tomorrow evening for a FREE webinar! To learn more and reserve your spot, click here!***
Shakha Gillin, M.D., F.A.A.P. attended UCSD for her undergraduate education and medical school (and if she looks familiar that’s because she’s the twin sister of Breezy go-to dermatoligist Dr. Vi). She practiced pediatrics in La Jolla for 5 years before joining El Camino Pediatrics. She has also worked in private practice in Newport Beach and in the Rady Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. Dr. Shakha Gillin has a special interest in preventative care, particularly healthy and active lifestyles for children. She was recognized by San Diego Magazine as a “Top Doctor” in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. She also organizes the North County Pediatric Journal Club, an every other month meeting where local pediatricians discuss the latest pediatric medical topics.
Get the FREE eBook! All Breezy Mama subscribers will receive a year’s worth of weekly recipes compiled into one easy to use book in TWO days (March 16)! Not a subscriber? What are you waiting for! Hurry and enter your email here: