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What is Influenza (also called Flu)?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each fall.

Every year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • about 36,000 people die from flu.

Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Symptoms of Flu

Symptoms of flu include:

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches
  • Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults

 

Complications of Flu

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

 


How To Keep Your Kids Entertained While Home With The Flu

Being sick with the flu is no fun for anyone, but when your children are ill and you have to stay home with them, it can drive everyone crazy. Nothing is worse than trying to entertain a sick, bored child all day for several days in a row. However, there are some simple games you can play with your child to help keep them entertained and pass the time. Read on to find out how to keep your kids entertained while they are home with the flu.

Arts and crafts are a great way to pass the day with your sick child. Making puppets from old socks and decorating them by coloring on them with markers, gluing on old buttons or beads, and adding different styles of yarn hair can be a terrific pastime when you child is ill with the flu. You can create sock puppets of people or animals. And when you are done with making several puppets, perhaps your child would enjoy helping you write a little sock puppet play. If you child is not feeling up to helping put on the play, you could entertain your child by performing the play yourself. Just use the foot of the bed as your makeshift puppet stage and have fun!

Also, when your child is feeling really bad and is not up to creating arts and crafts, do not underestimate the educational value of movies and television. Yes, many parents limit their children's television watching time, and quite rightly so. But when your child will miss several days of school by being home with the flu, educational movies and television shows can keep them entertained as well as keeping them learning. Video stores offer a wide variety of documentaries about animals and wildlife, dinosaurs, space and space travel, ocean life, and other interesting and educational topics. Also, you can usually find episodes of shows such as School House Rock at your local video rental store, too. For younger children, Sesame Street is a great program to watch. These shows not only keep your child entertained, they can help your child continue learning even while he or she is missing classes.

Another great way to spend the day with your sick child is to read books to your child. Reading is a lifetime habit that fewer and fewer children are learning these days. By showing your child that you value books and reading, you are not only entertaining your child, you are modeling a behavior that can benefit your child for years to come.

Also, just spend time with your child. When a child is ill, the thing they want more than anything else is just to be near their parent. Comfort them, talk with them and listen to their answers. While no parent ever wants their child to be ill, this can still become a great opportunity to have true conversations with your child that you will value forever.

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Who Should Get Vaccinated?

In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people should get vaccinated each year either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for high risk persons. During flu seasons when vaccine supplies are limited or delayed, ACIP makes recommendations regarding priority groups for vaccination.

People who should get vaccinated each year are:

1. People at high risk for complications from the flu, including:

  • Children aged 6–59 months of age,
  • Pregnant women,
  • People 50 years of age and older,
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, and
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.

2. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:

  • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu (see above)
  • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
  • Health care workers.

3. Anyone who wants to decrease their risk of influenza.

 

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