Influenza or “the flu” is a contagious viral respiratory infection. It is spread from person to person and can cause mild to severe symptoms. Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and often include: fever over 102°F, stuffy nose, nausea, chills and sweats, fatigue, muscle aches, cough, headache, and loss of appetite. Flu symptoms usually last for one to two weeks.
Coughs are one of the most common symptoms of childhood illness and should not be confused with the flu. Although a cough can sound awful, it’s not usually a sign of a serious condition as long as they do not “whoop” after prolonged episodes of coughing or having fits of coughing that are so severe that they can’t stop to catch their breath.
If your child is making a wheezing sound after coughing, call your child’s doctor at Aspen Medical Center right away. For very young children, whooping cough or pertussis can potentially be deadly.
Flu season in the northern hemisphere usually peaks in January or February, but flu season can occur as early as October or as late as May.
There is neither cure nor life-long immunization for the flu, but you can treat flu symptoms to help yourself feel better. To help your immune system recover from the flu quickly, it is important to drink lots of fluids, get adequate rest, stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, and avoid alcohol.
There are many over the counter flu medicines that can help alleviate flu symptoms like fever, stuffy nose, nausea, chills and sweats, fatigue, muscle aches, cough, headache. However, remember that a fever is your body’s natural way of fighting the flu by raising your body temperature to a point where it actually kills the virus, reducing the strength of the flu. Check with your health care provider before giving any flu medicine to children. In some instances, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral flu medicine to help shorten the course of the flu virus.
As preventative care to help reduce your chances of getting the flu, it is important to wash your hands frequently, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. There is also an influenza vaccine that usually becomes available in October but can be taken throughout the flu season (into December, January, and beyond). The flu vaccine will help decrease your chances of getting the flu, and even if you do get the flu, you will likely have a milder case than someone who isn’t vaccinated.