Preventing and Treating the Flu
It is no surprise to anyone that the Flu is back in full force, seems like everyone knows someone who has the flu right now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 25 states are seeing high numbers of cases of influenza, and unfortunately Texas is at the top of that list. It scares all moms to hear that at least 21 deaths have been reported in our state so far.
Locally, we have heard that although some doctors and health centers have run out of the flu vaccine, new shipments are arriving and there seems to be plenty of flu shots available to people in Lamar County, if they so choose to get vaccinated. However, many may choose not to get vaccinated – and that is a personal choice. Remember too that most health experts agree that the flu shot takes two weeks to take effect. So at this point in the flu season, getting the shot may not protect you if you are exposed to the virus during that two week window.
Although nothing will protect you 100% from the flu, there are some things you can do, either in addition to the flu shot or in place of it, that can help protect you and your family from the flu.
Here are some prevention tips:
- Wash hands thoroughly/ Lather for at least 20 seconds.
- Get rest. Sleep strengthens the immune system.
- Exercise, which reduces stress – stress can weaken the immune system
- Eat Healthy – feed your family lots of fruits and vegetables – try to eat at home more
- Avoid “areas of contamination” – this is not the time to take the kids to the “playscapes” at McDonalds or to Chucky Cheese – just like eating more at home, play more at home
- Keep your home clean – disinfect surface counters, wash towels, etc.
- Teach children to cough or sneeze into their sleeve not their hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
I think most moms will agree with me on this one – if your child is sick (even if it’s not the full blown flu) please, please do not send them to school, or to a basketball game, art class, etc. Keep them home! And remember, the CDC (and most local schools) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (that means your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
So how do you know if it is the flu or just the common cold? The simplest detector is that a cold is generally neck up – sore throat, sinus congestion, maybe a fever. The flu is generally all over the body – body aches, chills, high fever, extreme fatigue, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Another indicator is that the flu often is a sudden onset, while generally you feel a cold coming on and the symptoms seem to gradually worsen. Regardless of what you think it might be – go see the doctor immediately. Most of the anti-viral medicines, like Tamiflu, are only effective if taken during the first 2 days of feeling sick.
So if you or someone in your family is sick with the flu what should you do? First, go see a doctor. Other good recommendations include:
- Stay at home and rest.
- Try to have the sick family member avoid close contact with the well people in your house
- Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent fluid loss (dehydration).
- Treat fever with fever reducing medicine (like Tylenol or Motrin)
I think one of the most difficult decisions for moms, is when and how to decide if the flu is just making your child miserable or if you have a real emergency and need to take them to the ER. Especially in light of the deaths reported from the flu this year.
The CDC has the following recommendations:
Call 911 if: Child has difficulty breathing; is making grunting noises with each breath; has passed out or stopped breathing; or the lips are blue when patient isn’t coughing
Go to the emergency room if:
- Child is breathing fast or has trouble breathing
- Skin has turned bluish
- Child not drinking enough fluids
- Child no waking up or interacting
- Child too irritable to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse (could be sign of a “secondary infection”
- There’s fever with a rash
- An infant cries with no tears and few wet diapers (can indicate dehydration which can kill quickly)
- Sudden dizziness or confusion
Stay healthy and above all say a prayer for your family’s health and that all those suffering from the flu recover quickly.
From one mom to another,
Jenny Wilson is a mother of three. She teaches a Mommy & Me class at Central Presbyterian Day School, is a member of the Paris ISD school board and serves on the board of Paris Community Theatre and Children’s Advocacy Center. She also is on the PCT Children/Teen Theatre Advisory Committee, the Aiken Parent Association Board, the PJH Parent Association and is a Sunday school teacher at Holy Cross Episcopal Church. She also is a certified yoga instructor and owner of Everyday Yoga.