Tag Archives: flu epidemic

Cold Temps and Flu… Winter is Really Here!

Winter temperatures have arrived all over the U.S. On the East Coast we are now in the teens and below– and the flu “epidemic” is in full swing. Teachers are cautioning students to cough into their sleeves if they don’t have a tissue. Appointments for some primary care providers can only be obtained two weeks out…we ask them to call if there are any cancellations.

Even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definitely termed the flu an epidemic, health news correspondents continue to debate whether or not the flu has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. this year. Our entire household has had it even though we got our flu shots! Our doc says it would have been worse had we not received the flu shot. We are simply glad our bouts with it have subsided for now, and we hope that if the flu arrives at your household, you are able to manage it without too much distress. Here are a few more flu-wise precautions:

  • When family members do get sick, remaining home from daycare, school, work and crowded gatherings, is key to not spreading the flu.
  • Paying attention to kids’ temps and whether or not their coughs are productive is important. If a child’s fever seems too high or lasts too long, please call your primary care provider or take your child to the local Emergency Room ASAP.
  • Watch and listen to children’s coughs to make sure the bug doesn’t progress to serious bronchitis or pneumonia. If their coughs are productive check the color of the mucus… clear is good… anything with a yellowish or greenish cast should get a physician’s review.
  • If your child is experiencing difficulty breathing or respiratory distress, call 911.
  • Make sure to keep kids warm and hydrated when they are sick at home. If your child is experiencing repeated bouts of diarrhea with no let-up, call your primary care provider or take your child to the local Emergency Room.Children can become dehydrated quickly and that’s dangerous!
  • Keep track of how well children are eating–if they are not hungry, don’t force them to eat. Lighter meals work better with upset tummies…clear broth, toast, gelatin, ginger ale, salted crackers are in order. It’s probably best to refrain from spicy foods.
  • If children are well and can go out to play, cover their heads with hats, facemasks or scarves, hands (with mittens or gloves) and feet (socks, shoes, boots) when they are headed out doors. This is not the time of year for little toes to walk barefooted–even indoors, vinyl, tile and hardwood floors can be cold.
  • Monitor amount of play time kids spend outdoors–it’s easy when they are bundled up and playing, for them to become overheated under bulky winter snow jackets, etc. Check periodically to make sure children’s clothes and feet are dry and that there are no signs of frostbite on exposed skin. Layering their clothing will help keep them warm.
  • Remember to keep emergency numbers by your telephone.

If the flu bug should arrive at your home, we sincerely hope your family’s experience will be a mild one!

Kids and the Flu Epidemic

Today, throughout America, our population is fighting the flu. Area school systems are discussing whether or not to hold classes due to the flu affecting school children. Merriam Webster‘s primary definition of an epidemic is anything [in this case, a disease] that affects a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time. Dr. Tom Farley, New York City’s Health Commissioner, announced on CNN recently that the flu outbreak has reached epidemic proportions in New York City and he’s not certain if it has peaked!  http://www.cnn.com/video/#bestoftv/2013/01/14/exp-early-farley.cnn

At this time, 47 states in the continental U.S. are experiencing widespread flu activity, according to CNN, and an incredible increase in the number of visits to hospital emergency rooms by people with flu symptoms, according to Dr. Farley. Some hospitals have set up tents outside their emergency rooms to handle the numbers of “incoming”. A sad and startling reality is, according to the CDC since September 30, 2012, there have been 40 pediatric deaths in the United Statesdue to the flu, at least 20 deaths of children under age ten since January 1, 2013.  “Children are at a higher risk for the flu because their immune systems are not fully developed. Children with chronic health conditions are at even higher risk of getting the flu and experiencing complications.” www.flu.gov/at-risk/children/index.html

Parents and caregivers need to take this year’s flu epidemic seriously. There are several types of flu: Influenza A has been typed in 79% of the specimens and seems to be the heavy hitter with two and possibly three different strains. Influenza B accounts for approximately 20% of the flu specimens which have been typed across the country for the first week of January.  http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/

If you and your children (older than 6 months old) have not gotten flu shots, there is still flu vaccine available. CDC says the current flu vaccine is at least 60 percent effective against the flu (CDC, January 11, 2013, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report). You can still get the flu even if you get the shot, but, in Dr. Farley’s opinion, you may get a less virulent version. You still may be able to get the flu shot from your primary care physician, but you also may need to make a phone call or two to locate a source of the vaccine in your area if your primary care provider doesn’t have it. It’s still not too late to be vaccinated and to gain some protection against the flu.

With this year’s flu, fever is usually present, chills are possible, along with headache and moderate-to-severe body aches and fatigue. Rapid onset of symptoms is characteristic of this year’s flu with a 3-to-6 hour incubation period. It feels like a cold coming on, only stronger. Coughs are dry and unproductive, and sore throats are less common, according to the Associated Press (“Do You really Have Flu?”, The Daily News Record, January 14, 2013, Associated Press, Harrisonburg, VA).

Children are getting the flu in inordinate proportions, so parents need to watch out for symptoms and keep kids home from school if a fever is present! Sanjay Gupta, MD, (of CNN) recommends that parents also make sure to “Wash, wash, wash hands!”, not just a cursory rinsing of little hands under water but rub them together with real soap, real water–not just hand-sanitizer for a good two minutes. Gupta says he sings the happy birthday song with his children twice while they are washing their hands, and devotes at least two full minutes to hand-washing each time!

This flu is a bad bug, so we hope those who follow ChildSafetyBlog.org take heed and pass on the precautions that could help keep you and your family from getting it.