Pediatrics - Flu and Flu Shots
IntroductionThe flu is a respiratory disease that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. The influenza virus type A, B, or C causes it. The flu is very contagious. Symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, cough, and a lack of energy. The flu usually lasts for a week or two. Severe cases of the flu may require hospitalization and can be fatal. The flu may be prevented with a vaccine.
The influenza virus spreads easily from person to person. When a person sneezes or coughs, mucus drops containing the virus float in the air. Your child can catch the flu by breathing in the virus. The flu is also transmitted by hand to hand contact or by touching a surface that the virus is on and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.
The flu can have serious and life threatening complications. Severe cases of the flu can cause pneumonia. People in high-risk groups are the most vulnerable for serious complications. People at high-risk include those older than the age of 65; residents in facilities, such as nursing homes; pregnant women; and infants. People with certain medical conditions have a high risk for medical complications. Such medical conditions include HIV or AIDS, diabetes, and chronic heart, lung, or kidney disease.
Signs of serious complications from the flu include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, turning blue, increased fever, dehydration or the inability to drink fluids, and prolonged symptoms or the return of symptoms after improvement. You should contact your doctor if your child is in a high-risk group and contracts the flu or if your child shows signs of complications from the flu.
Your child can avoid spreading the flu by staying away from people while he or she is contagious. Cough or sneeze into a disposable handkerchief. Wash your hands frequently and especially after coughing and sneezing.
An influenza vaccine can be the best way to prevent the flu. A flu shot is made of an inactive virus and is protective against influenza type A and B. A nasal mist vaccine made of a live weakened virus is delivered through the nose. It helps the cells in the lining of the nose fight off the influenza virus. Your child can not get the flu from the influenza vaccine.
Flu shots are usually given at the beginning of the flu season during the months of October and November. It is recommended that people in high-risk groups receive flu shots in September. The vaccine reduces the risk of influenza-related death for people in high-risk groups.
Flu vaccines are about 70-90% effective. It is recommended that children and pregnant women receive mercury-free vaccines. You should check with your doctor to see if you or your children are candidates for the flu vaccine.
Am I at Risk
Is My Child at Risk?
The flu is highly contagious and spreads easily. A person is the most contagious from the day before they develop symptoms to seven days afterwards. The influenza virus floats in the air whenever a person with the flu coughs or sneezes. Your child can catch the virus by inhaling it when he or she breathes. Your child can also catch the virus by hand to hand contact with a person that has the flu or by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Your child’s risk of catching the flu increases with the more people your child is exposed to, for instance at work, school, or church. Your child’s risk increases with the more shared surfaces he or she touches, such as keyboards, telephones, eating utensils, grocery carts, and public transportation railings.
Flu incidences increase during the winter months. This may be because of a combination of several factors. For one, more people gather indoors when the weather is cold or rainy. The influenza virus can live longer indoors where the humidity is lower. Additionally, the virus can stay suspended in the air longer indoors.
Influenza type A and B can cause flu epidemics. Epidemics are widespread outbreaks within a geographical area. Flu epidemics may cause schools or workplaces to close. Influenza can also cause pandemics, which are outbreaks over large geographical areas. Influenza type C is not usually associated with widespread outbreaks.
Influenza type A has several subtypes. Influenza type A can mutate and change. This is why new preventative flu shots are created each year to combat the latest version of the virus.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.