Flu Season Approaching, Take These Preventive Steps

Don’t be caught off guard, beat the flu this season! Flu season can start as early as October. CHOC Children’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge that all children ages 6 months or older — that means practically everyone! — be immunized against influenza as soon as the vaccine is available. It is especially important for people who are at high risk of complications from flu to get the flu vaccine, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with chronic medical conditions
  • People who are immunosuppressed
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Health care workers

Further, to protect a baby, who cannot get the flu vaccine, make sure that everyone in your home, as well as daycare providers get a flu vaccine. This reduces the likelihood of your baby coming into contact with this common and unpredictable virus.

Lastly, take everyday preventive steps to stop the spread of germs.

  • Wash your hands often and use respiratory etiquette during flu season. There are many other respiratory viruses out there besides the seasonal flu, and the flu vaccine cannot protect against all of them.
  • Use hand sanitizer.
  • Postpone play dates with sick kids.
  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing.
  • If you are sick with the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

Contact your pediatrician or health care provider to check when the flu vaccine is available.

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Protect Against the Flu to Keep Children’s Learning on Track

Between fever and body aches, your child really suffers when flu-stricken – but the virus affects more than just your child’s health. Did you know that staying home with the flu affects your child’s learning, and has consequences for schools? Learn some more reasons why to protect against the flu in today’s guest post from Pamela Kahn, R.N., M.P.H., the Orange County Department of Education’s health and wellness coordinator.It’s no fun seeing your child laid low by the flu. As a parent, you do everything that you can to relieve the fever, body aches, chills, cough and stuffy nose that come with the flu, and to get your child back to normal again.

You aren’t the only one rooting for your child to stay healthy. The flu can have a profound impact on your child’s school. Infectious disease accounts for millions of lost school days a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, school-aged children are the group with the highest rates of flu illness, and they tend to be the ones who spread the flu.

A recent study showed that about half of school absences during January and February were related to respiratory and intestinal flu-like sickness. In fact, school nurses report that during flu season they often see more than 16 students per day in their offices, and send home on average five sick students each day.

Students with influenza miss more school days than their healthy peers. It’s important to remember that students who miss too much school are less likely to succeed academically. Further, students aren’t the only ones at school affected by the flu: Teacher absenteeism costs time and money, as well as possibly having a negative effect on your student’s learning.

The flu season may also affect school finances. With absenteeism, the Average Daily Attendance rate (money schools receive from the government)  for students during the flu season can decrease by as much as 2 percent, costing the school much-needed dollars.

The effect of widespread flu vaccination protects not only your child, but the whole community because school-aged children can easily share the virus with classmates, teachers and other school staff. Children who are not vaccinated were 2.9 times more likely to get the flu compared with vaccinated children.

So, while good nutrition, plenty of rest, exercise, and reducing stress  all strengthen kids’ and parents’ overall disease resistance, being vaccinated against the flu has been shown to both decrease the rate of influenza infection and increase rates of school attendance, which is good for your child, their teacher and their school.

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Kids and the Flu

How do you distinguish a common cold from the flu (influenza)?When late fall rolls around, the flu usually rolls in with it.

“The first few days  with a cough, fever and sore throat are early signs of influenza,” says Dr. Antonio Arrieta, an infectious disease specialist at CHOC. “Fever is very common. Probably 90 percent of children  who have influenza will have a high fever.”

What else should you look out for to identify this seasonal respiratory infection?

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose

“V” FOR VICTORY
It’s possible for your child to be on the winning team this flu season.

“The best way to fight influenza is not to get it. All children older than 6 months and adults should receive the flu vaccine. It is safe and highly effective,” Dr. Arrieta says.

What else can you do? Suggestions from Dr. Arrieta include washing one’s hands very carefully before and after taking care of young children, and avoiding close contact for long periods of time with people who have influenza or a respiratory illness.

SHOT TREATMENT
The flu shot is safe and up to 70 percent protective. Also safe and effective is the intranasal form of the vaccine, which shouldn’t be given to children less than two years of age and with asthma or a history of wheezing, says Dr. Arrieta.

SHOO’ING THE FLU
“The only effective treatment that will shorten the course of the illness is anti-viral agents,” Dr. Arrieta says.

The most familiar one is Tamiflu. It’s safe for children ages 1 and older, if necessary.

Alternatively, parents can administer over-the-counter remedies like acetaminophen for fever or discomfort, Dr. Arrieta says.

Dr. Arrieta does not recommend decongestants for flu treatment.

“They can make children drowsy and limit the parent’s ability to evaluate them if they’re not feeling well,” he says.

FAST FACTS

  • Number of days severe flu symptoms may last: 7 days
  • Number of colds Americans suffer yearly: 1 billion
  • Age recommended to begin getting yearly flu shots: 6 months

View the full feature on Kids and the Flu

Dr. Antonio Arrieta
Dr. Antonio Arrieta
CHOC Infectious Disease Specialist

PHYSICIAN FOCUS: DR. ANTONIO ARRIETA

Dr. Arrieta has served patients at CHOC Children’s since 1991. He is the director of pediatric infectious diseases and director of infectious disease clinical research, and specializes in the treatment of serious community acquired and nosocomial infections. Dr. Arrieta completed his fellowship at UCI Memorial/Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach and his pediatrics residency at Southern Illinois University.

Dr. Arrieta’s philosophy of care: “My most important message for the community is prevention mainly through timely immunization, and also by observing healthy habits and handwashing.”

EDUCATION:
Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru

BOARD CERTIFICATIONS:
Pediatric Infectious Diseases

More about Dr. Arrieta

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on December 3, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson.

Protect Your Kids from the Flu this Season

It’s not too early to get the flu shot! The flu season can start as early as October, (peaks in January or February) and can last as late as May. CHOC Children’s along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that all children ages 6 months or older be immunized against influenza as soon as the vaccine is available.

New quadrivalent influenza vaccines for the 2013-2014 season contain the same three strains as the trivalent vaccine, plus an additional B strain. The flu vaccine is especially important for people who are at high risk of complications from flu, including:

• Pregnant women
• People 50 years of age and older
• People of any age with chronic medical conditions
• People who are immunosuppressed
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• Health care workers

For a complete list, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/FLU/

Also, remind your family to take everyday preventive steps to stop the spread of germs. This includes washing hands often, using hand sanitizer, postponing play dates with sick kids, and wearing appropriate outdoor clothing. If you are sick with the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

For more information, check out this CHOC article with frequently asked questions:
http://blog.chocchildrens.org/who-needs-a-flu-vaccine/

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Three-Step Approach to Fighting the Flu

The 2012-2013 influenza season started early and activity remains high nationwide. This may continue for some time. With that in mind, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a three-step approach to fighting influenza:

1. Get a flu vaccine.
2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

In addition, the flu vaccine may be harder to find now than it was earlier in the season. You may need to contact more than one provider (pharmacy, health department, or doctor) to find available vaccine. The flu vaccine locator provided by the CDC ( http://flushot.healthmap.org/ ) may be helpful in your search.

For more information, visit the CDC flu resources.

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