Flu-what you need to know.

Flu season has hit our area in full force. 

How do you know if someone in your family has gotten the Flu?  IF they suddenly develop fever, especially with chills, headache, muscle achiness, cough and generally feel terrible and just want to lie in bed under a lot of covers, they probably have the Flu.  Worsening cough, sore throat and a runny or congested nose will usually follow..  Some people will have partial immunity and their symptoms may not be as severe but a typical Flu infection makes people feel very ill for 3-5 days and then they will start to feel like they are starting to get better.  

What should you do if you think your child has the Flu?  If they are considered high risk because of their age (less than 2 yrs. old),  or underlying medical condition, they should definitely be evaluated.  If they are school aged and don’t have any underlying medical condition they can be managed at home with increased fluids, fever control with Tylenol or Ibuprofen (but never Aspirin) and some of grandma’s restorative chicken soup.  If their fever is lasting longer than 4-5 days or they are not showing signs of improvement by this time they should be seen and evaluated. 

Another reason to have your child evaluated when you think they have the Flu is if you want to put them on Tamiflu.  This is a medication covered by most, but not all, insurances.  It is given twice daily for 5 days to treat the Flu and once a day for 10 days to prevent household contacts from getting the Flu.  It shortens the course of the Flu by an average of about a day if given in the first 48 hours of infection and helps prevent transmission when taken by contacts. This can be significant when you consider how ill the Flu can make you and the lost school and work days caused by Flu infections in children and their family members.   So if your child has important upcoming events, such as performances or athletic events, or spread to other family members would be especially problematic, then it is best to get your child in to our office as soon as they develop classic Flu symptoms, preferably within  the first 48 hours.  A rapid Flu test can be done and a decision to treat the patient or contacts can be made based on the result.  One must keep in mind however that the rapid flu test is not that sensitive and may have a false negative result (a negative result in a patient who has the Flu) in 20-30 % of infected patients.  Because of this if a patient is evaluated during Flu season and has classic Flu symptoms a decision may be made to treat them with Tamiflu without doing a rapid Flu test or even if the result is negative in certain situations.  These cases are usually discussed with parent and the child and an informed decision is made.

  Douglass Hasell MD

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