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Guide to the Flu

girl getting flu shot

Influenza, or the flu, is a viral infection that primarily affects the respiratory system. It is caused by influenza viruses, is highly contagious, and it can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

Each year the influenza virus evolves, making it difficult to prevent long-term. Therefore, it is recommended that you and your child get a flu vaccine each year during flu season near the beginning of fall.

To schedule a flu shot for your child, contact Plymouth Pediatric Associates today by calling 508-746-5900 (Plymouth) or 508-888-9853 (Sandwich).

Flu Season and Immunization

The flu season can start in early Fall and last until Spring, but the bulk of flu cases happen between December through February. It is important to stay up-to-date in your area, as flu outbreaks happen at a local level.

Make sure to schedule an appointment to get a flu shot as soon as the vaccination becomes available. Your child can get a flu shot at our office, plus most pharmacies and even school health centers. 

The influenza vaccine available for children protects against the four influenza viruses that are most likely to cause illness during the upcoming flu season. 

Even if a person gets the vaccine, they may still get the flu virus, but a flu shot can reduce the severity of symptoms and is the best preventative measure a person can take.

What Are Flu Symptoms in Children? 

The flu is characterized by symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, and sometimes respiratory congestion. Some children may throw up (vomit) and have loose stools (diarrhea). Even though the symptoms are similar to the common cold, they can become severe enough to lead to other illnesses and even cause death.

Influenza can range in severity from mild to severe and can lead to complications, especially in vulnerable populations including young children and those with weakened immune systems. 

It’s important to note the flu is highly contagious. During the first couple days, it easily spreads to other children, family members, and those around them. During periods of outbreak, typically occurring in winter, the illness tends to be more prevalent among preschool and school-aged children. College students and teenagers are also recognized as groups in which flu viruses can rapidly spread. 

How Can I Protect My Family From the Flu? 

There are a number of measures that the CDC recommends that you and your child should take to avoid getting and spreading the flu. These include:

  • Avoid close contact. Especially contact with those who are sick. When you are sick you should also avoid contact with others.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Not only will this help prevent the spread of germs, but it will ensure that you don’t overexert yourself if you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose. Sneezing and coughing are the easiest ways for viruses to spread. Cover your mouth if you are sick.
  • Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often, not just when you use the restroom. You pick up a lot of germs on your hands throughout the day, and if you’re out in public during flu season, there’s a good chance you’ll pick up the flu.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Even if you keep your hands clean, viruses easily enter the body through the orifices on your face.
  • Practice good health habits. Make sure to disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot. For example, wipe down a shopping cart handle with a wipe before using. Additionally, make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat nutritious food and drink a lot of fluids.

Make sure you teach these good habits to your child so when they are not by your side, they will help prevent the flu from spreading.

Flu Treatment in Plymouth, MA

Luckily, the flu for the most part is self-treatable. Eventually it will pass with plenty of rest, drinking a lot of fluids and medication to manage symptoms. Your body will fight the infection on its own.

Sometimes, a doctor will prescribe you or your child antiviral medications if diagnosed with the flu based on severity, complications and progressive illness. Call Plymouth Pediatric Associates for questions about over-the-counter medication to relieve flu symptoms.

When Is the Flu an Emergency in Children?

If your child with the flu develops any of the following signs, seek immediate medical care (call 911 or go to the emergency room):

  • Trouble breathing or abnormal rapid breathing
  • Bluish face or lips 
  • Ribs appear to pull in with each breath
  • Chest pain
  • Severe muscle pain 
  • Dehydration (no urination for 8 hours, dry mouth, and crying without tear production)
  • When your child is awake, he or she is not alert or interacting with you
  • Seizures 
  • Fever above 104°F, and any fever for infants less than 12 weeks 
  • Fever/cough that seems to get better then return or worsen 
  • Worsening chronic medical conditions, such as asthma

If you’re looking for a flu shot for your child in the Plymouth area, or are concerned they may already have the flu, contact Plymouth Pediatric Associates today to schedule an appointment.

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