“Flu Frenzy” is rampant in across the country. It is a very busy flu season and it did start earlier than usual in the southern part of the country. Texas has been hit especially hard and e started seeing flu cases in my office at the end of October.
But, with that being said, if you look at past years flu statistics January and February are typically the peaks of the flu season. I know that these are usually the busiest months in the office and it it seems like there is not a child who doesn’t have a cough or cold and many are running a few days of fever. But don’t panic!
With all of that being said we have been lucky for several years to have had a light flu season, so this year’s flu season does seem worse. Fortunately, the majority of children we are seeing with flu symptoms are handling the virus very well (like many childhood viruses) and actually do not appear to be too sick. The children I am seeing are running 2-4 days of fever, many as high as 102 or 103 degrees, which is not unusual with the flu. They have coughs, congestion and scratchy throats and the older kids are complaining of feeling “achey” as well. But they are also still drinking fluids, appear well hydrated, and when their temps come down with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, they will play, watch a movie, or even run around our waiting room.
With a practice of 13 pediatricians we have literally seen hundreds of kids with the flu (both types A and B) but we have not had to hospitalize anyone!! Parents always want to watch their children for respiratory distress or for prolonged fever, but most of the children may be treated symptomatically. Remember fever is your friend, and higher temps do not necessarily mean a sicker child.
While there have been 29 pediatric deaths to date reported secondary to complications from the flu (1 death is too many), the majority of people who are having complications from the flu are the elderly. The CDC confirms that this year is “is shaping up to be a worse than average season and is especially bad for the elderly”.
The best way to prevent the flu is to make sure that any child over the age of 6 months of age gets a flu vaccine. With the early start of flu season and many people now heading to get vaccinated, the flu vaccine that is given to children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years is hard to find. The live flumist vaccine which is given to healthy children over 2 years of age seems to be more readily available. Call to check if your doctor still has availability.
Historically we still have 6 - 8 weeks of flu season to go, so if your child is not yet vaccinated, call your doctor and get that vaccine!! While it is not guaranteed to prevent the flu, it is definitely the best protection there is.