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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.

 


Tips For When Your Kids Have The Flu

The flu is a dangerous illness as it is, but it is even more dangerous for children. Children are at an increased risk with regards to all the symptoms of the flu; adults usually don't have to deal with the stomach-related ones. Also, children are naturally less able mentally to endure sickness.

Treating the Flu Conventionally

If your kids contract the flu, it is vital that you give them plenty of rest. Don't allow them to engage in strenuous exercise or play. Even if they do not feel fatigued for the first few days, be firm. The body must be in a state of rest if it is to cope with the sickness brought by the virus.

Don't forget to give your kids plenty of fluids as well. Water is especially helpful, but so are isotonic sport drinks. Because children with the flu can also get diarrhea, replacing lost fluids takes an important role in keeping their health up. If, God forbid, they use alcohol or tobacco, do not allow them to. Both these substances will lower the body's powers of resistance, thereby making the entire flu experience worse.

Children and teenagers should also avoid taking aspirin when they have the flu, even if there is a fever. Doing so can lead to the Reye Syndrome which is a rare but potentially fatal liver ailment. Also, while not generally known, fevers can assist the body in fighting off infection, influenza included.

The Use of Medication

There are three antiviral drugs approved for the purpose of preventing the flu. These are oseltavimir, rimantidine, and amantadine. All three are prescription drugs and thus require the recommendation of a doctor before they are used. Another drug, zanamivir, has been approved by the United States government for use in the treatment of the flu.

One should be very careful when buying medicine to treat the flu. Many drugstores offer over the counter remedies, which are available for purchase even without a prescription. These drugs are often combinations of pain-killers, expectorants, decongestants and antihistamine. Thus, they can treat body aches and fatigue, coughs, respiratory problems like runny or stuffed noses, and any allergic reactions. Unfortunately, these medicines do nothing against the root of the problem, which is the reproduction and subsequent spreading of the virus itself.

When dealing with children, one should probably not experiment with "alternative" flu treatments. The problem with these treatments is that they have not been tested or approved of by any regulatory body. That means that these treatments may do absolutely nothing against the flu. In fact, it may even make it worse. It's one thing to try these treatments (which may turn out to be effective) on yourself; its quite another thing to apply them to children.

Unconventional Treatment

Homeopathic and other cold and flu remedies that fail to meet the regulatory requirements required to be marketed as drugs that treat disease, or the standards of evidence-based medicine, are heavily marketed and widely sold as nutritional supplements. They may be based on extracts of living things, but may lack documentation of their safety and effectiveness, may be promoted by those who deny the need for such testing and may fail to provide a scientifically plausible rationale for their effectiveness.

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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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