Influenza (the flu) is a very contagious infection that occurs most frequently in the fall and winter months, typically because people spend more time in close contact with one another. The flu is caused by the influenza virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. Most people who get the flu will only have a mild illness. Other groups of people like children, the elderly, and those with underlying medical illnesses may have a more serious reaction to the flu.
What does the flu look like?
It can take a day or two for an infected person to show any signs of symptoms of the flu.
The signs and symptoms of the flu are as follows:
• Fever of higher than 100⁰F or 37.8⁰C
• Aches and pains
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
All these signs and symptoms do not need to be present in order to diagnose the flu.
How is the flu diagnosed?
Diagnosing the flu is through the presentation of signs and symptoms (fever, cough, aches and pains). Although sometimes when there is a significant flu outbreak in a community, lab testing may be performed.
How does the influenza virus spread?
The flu is spread from person to person through droplets in the air when people cough, sneeze or talk. But people can also contract the flu from unknowingly touching surfaces where there is a flu virus, and then transmitting that virus by touching their mouth and/or nose. You may not even know you are infected with the flu virus and still can pass it on to others.
How to prevent the flu?
The following are some ways to protect you and your family from the flu:
• Wash your hands as often as possible, and when it’s not possible use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
• Try not to touch your face (since the flu gets into our bodies through our mouth and nose).
• Cover your nose or mouth when you sneeze or cough.
• Keep your house clean and wipe away those nasty flu viruses that live on surfaces around the house.
• Try staying away from sick people, and if you are sick limit contact with others to prevent the spread of the flu.
• Get the flu vaccine.
• Stay healthy, eat a balanced diet, including foods that are rich in vitamin C and D.
How to treat the flu?
Like most viruses, the flu cannot be treated with antibiotics. The best treatment for flu is through the management of symptoms.
• Get plenty of rest.
• Drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration.
• Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help with fever, headache, and muscles aches and pains. ASA (Aspirin) is not recommended for children under the age of 18.
• In some cases antiviral medications maybe available, but this depends on the flu virus.
When to see your doctor?
If the above methods do not seem to be helping, or you feel your child is getting worse, it’s best to see your doctor. Also be sure to see your doctor if your child:
• Has trouble breathing
• Is more sleepy than normal
• Is more fussy than normal
• Is not drinking enough fluids
• Is not feeling better after five days of having symptoms
• Gets better, then worse
• Has bluish discolouration of the skin or lips
• Has a seizure or stiff neck
– Dr. Christina Cesareo and Dr. G Paul Dempsey