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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.

 


When Your Child Gets The Flu From School

No one wants their child to get sick, but with flu season right around the corner, it is a possibility for which every parent should be prepared. When your child is in school, the chances of him or her getting sick with the flu are even higher. Children are notorious for not washing their hands as much as they should, not covering their mouths when they sneeze, and spreading illnesses in class. When your child gets the flu from school, there are some things you should do to help stop the flu from spreading further.

First, you must notify the school nurse that your child is sick with the flu. This will help the school nurse to monitor other students for symptoms and hopefully prevent a wide outbreak of the flu. Also, this will also help teachers, student aides, and bathroom monitors to ensure that other children are meticulous with their hand washing. Teachers can encourage the use of antibacterial alcohol based hand cleaner to further reduce the chance of spreading the flu to other children. In addition, teachers and aides can emphasize the importance of using a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes. Notifying the school is a very important first step in preventing more children from contracting the flu, and you must make sure that you do this.

Also, make sure that you send a physician's note to the school to excuse your child's absences. This is required by law if your child misses more than two days of school, and it helps the office staff meet their own documentation requirements. Get that doctor's note to the office so that your child will not be penalized with unexcused absences and the school will not fall behind in their attendance documentation.

You should also contact your child's teacher or teachers and request that they make a packet of homework and reading for your child to work on while he or she is sick. This may seem like adding insult to injury, having a sick child do schoolwork, but it really is for his or her benefit. Returning to school after missing several days can result in quite a pile of make up work waiting for your child. If they can get even a little of this make up work completed while they are at home with you, it will make their return to class quite a lot easier on them.

Also, if you have more than one child, ask your pediatrician if your other children should receive the influenza vaccine to prevent them from getting the flu, too. The influenza vaccine for children requires two vaccinations and is created from the dead, destroyed influenza virus. This means that there is no way that receiving the flu shot can give you the flu. Some children may have symptoms of soreness at the injection site or mild body aches. This is a normal reaction to getting vaccinated. Check with your children's doctor to see if being vaccinated yourself is necessary, too.

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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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