Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus commonly known as ‘the flu’ It’s a highly contagious virus that spreads quickly through schools, the work place and communities most often in the winter months. The flu season can last from October through March.
Children are the most contagious during the 24 hours before the symptoms present through when the symptoms are at their worst. Virus droplets are released into the air by someone who has the virus who coughs or sneezes.
Signs and symptoms of the flu often hit hard and fast with a fever and muscles aches, general weakness, stuffy, runny nose and often in children, abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting. In infants croup, bronchiolitis and pneumonia can develop.
As with most illnesses, lots of rest and fluids to prevent dehydration are helpful, but it’s important to see your pediatrician early on, as many antiviral medications need to be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be effective.
Over the counter medications to relieve symptoms and decrease fever can make your child more comfortable. Be careful to avoid any medications containing aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid, because of the risk of Reyes Syndrome.
Remind your children to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze and to wash their hand often, and speak to your pediatrician about having your children vaccinated against the flu this season.