Flu, Flu, Fly Away

No one can make the flu fly away. Here are some tips on how to avoid getting and giving the Flu. This applies to children and adults. I’ll start out by recommending getting the vaccination against Influenza. And, NO, you don’t get the Flu from the vaccination. There are some who have certain medical problems who should not get the vaccination so make sure to ask your own health care provider if you or your child are one of those people.

First let’s do a comparison between the “Flu” and a “Cold.” The Flu has a fast onset of symptoms with fever, chills, body aches and feeling like you’ve had a run in with an elephant. A cold has a gradual onset with stuffy and/or runny nose, sneezing, throat irritation and maybe some eye watering.  Rarely does an elephant enter the picture. Both can have coughs attached.

To help prevent getting and/or spreading the Flu, frequent hand-washing is extremely important. Regular soap and water is fine, also are alcohol based hand sanitizers and antibacterial wipes. If you are coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose. A good way to do this is to cough or sneeze into your “elbow pit.” Tell your children that’s the one below the armpit. Smile or laugh when you tell them and they will remember. By sneezing or coughing at the inner elbow area, the shirt or skin may get wet, but the droplets released are contained. Using a tissue means finding a place to dispose of the tissue, not in your pocket, but in a trash bin close by, followed by a quick hand wash.

Laughing and even just normal conversation with a respiratory illness easily spreads small droplets of saliva to anyone within three feet of your mouth. Wearing a mask would help, but is not practical for either parents or children (even with a smiley face drawn on it).

If you or your children have the Flu, you should stay home until all the symptoms are gone. This is not realistic in today’s world so there should at least be marked improvement with no elevated temperature for at least 24 hours. There are some antiviral medications available, but to work they need to be given at the very start of the illness which is usually before the Flu is actually diagnosed.  However, they only help the symptoms and do not cure the Flu.

That leaves preventative measures, being yearly vaccination either by shot (killed virus) or by mist (live attenuated virus), frequent hand-washing (wipes in a backpack are soon forgotten), sneezing or coughing into the inner elbow area, keeping you and your children out of contact with those you suspect might be ill at childcare, preschool, daycare at the gym, neighbors etc., staying home until at least 24 hours of no fever has elapsed and the symptoms have mostly disappeared.

By Bruce Gach, M.D. 

Bruce is the managing partner of Livermore-Pleasanton-San Ramon Pediatrics Group. He is a Board Certified practicing pediatrician with over 30 years of experience caring for children. He has served on numerous committees dealing with child health and development.  www.livermorepleasantonpeds.com