Little Girl with the Flu

This post was written by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, pediatrician and author of Seattle Mama Doc, a Seattle Children's Hospital blog. It originally appeared on Seattle Mama Doc on Jan. 8, 2014.

Influenza currently has widespread activity here in Washington, and fortunately the news media has really picked up the story in the last couple of days. I say "fortunately" because as we know more about flu in our community, the better we can work to protect our families. There’s no question the clinic was full of coughs and colds yesterday!

At the end of last week, the CDC reported that 25 states in the US have widespread influenza (see the map in the original post). In addition, public health officials confirm that H1N1 Influenza A is causing more serious, sometimes deadly disease in young adults. This post is simply a reminder that flu is here in our communities, work and schools. The best way to reduce the risk of serious influenza infection is still to get a flu shot. Particularly if you’re a middle-aged adult (!!), as young adults are bearing a particular burden of serious disease this season. In fact, there have already been a number of deaths in WA state. Many of the individuals who died were unvaccinated.

This is still true: Pregnant women, young children, those over 65 years and anyone with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for serious infection from influenza.

The great news: The 2013–2014 flu shot is a good match for the influenza that is circulating. As I explained back in November, the flu shot either has three or four strains of influenza, depending on what shot or nasal spray you are offered. Every form of flu shot/nasal spray this year contains the H1N1 Influenza A strain that you’re likely hearing about on the news.

What to do if you think you have the flu

  • Symptoms of flu include high fever, cough, cold symptoms and body aches. Stay home if ill to prevent spread, and work to keep hydrated. Use fever-reducing medications if you or your child feel better with them on-board.
  • If you are concerned your infant is ill or infected with influenza, see your doctor. Infants are at higher risk for serious infections from flu.
  • If you or your children have underlying medical conditions, things like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, chronic medical problems, neurologic challenges or immune troubles, call your physician if you suspect you or your child have flu. For high-risk children and adults, we sometimes use anti-flu medication during the first 1–2 days of illness to prevent serious infections from developing.
  • It’s not too late for a flu shot. Call your clinic or visit the pharmacy to get one if you haven’t yet this year. Don’t wait—you’ll be protected two weeks after getting the spray or shot. High levels of flu are expected to stick around for the next 6–8 weeks here in Washington.

Information for parents online: protection from flu shots

CHOP Vaccine Education Center: Influenza VaccineHow Are Vaccines Made?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Key Facts About Flu ShotsSeasonal Flu Basics
Healthy Children (from the American Academy of Pediatrics): What You Need to Know About 2013–14 Flu Shots
Mama Doc: Why a Flu Shot Every Year?It’s Time for Flu Shots (2013–14)

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