Flu season, like winter, is coming. Is your family ready?

Are you ready for flu seasonFrom cooler temperatures to pumpkin pie, we welcome many things that come with the fall season, but the flu is not one of them. Dr. Katherine Leitner, a TMCOne provider at TMC Rincon Health Campus, provides some important pointers to best prepare families for flu season.

How should a family prepare for flu season?

The most effective preventative measure is a flu vaccination. Everyone in the family should get a flu shot.

If experiencing flu-like symptoms:

  • cover your mouth when coughing
  • avoid touching your face
  • wash your hands with soap and water frequently
  • disinfect surfaces you come in contact with
  • and stay at home for at least 24 hours

When should you get a flu shot?

The Centers for Disease Control recommends receiving a flu vaccine in October. Even if you did not receive the flu shot in October, it is still beneficial to obtain one throughout the flu season which can run through January or later. It is also important that everyone get the flu shot yearly, because the flu strain changes from year to year.

What about vitamin C and a healthy diet?

Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin C during a cold does not actually improve the outcome or decrease the duration of illness. However, it is always important to stick to a healthy diet so you can build a good immune system for when you do get sick. During an illness, drinking lots of fluids and staying hydrated is very important.

What should you do if a child is showing flu symptoms?

Make an appointment with your child’s health care provider right away. The provider can test for the flu and treat it with a medication if caught early. To prevent the spread of illness, keep your child out of school until he or she is feeling better.

Who should get the flu shot?

Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician with Mayo Clinic, says, “The latest recommendations from the CDC reaffirm that all of us are at risk for catching and spreading the flu, and all of us should get our flu shot this fall. Very few of us cannot get the vaccine. Our getting the vaccines protects them, too.”

The CDC continues to recommend vaccination for all people aged 6 months and older without contraindications, preferably by the end of October. For those aged 65 and older, the CDC says standard-dose or high-dose vaccine is acceptable.

For information on how to protect infants under 6 months from the flu see this TMC for Children post.

You’ve got the flu: Is the Emergency Department for you?

when to come to the ed with flu and when to stay awayThe flu outbreak across the state is hitting much earlier – and far harder – than expected.*

If you’ve come down with influenza, how do you know when you should see your primary care provider or if you should go to the emergency room?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a flu guidance page on its website to help you determine whether you should head to the emergency room or your doctor. In short, the emergency room should only be used by those who are very sick and are exhibiting emergency warning signs, including:

In adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Looking for a same day appointment with a primary care provider? Check out TMCOne.

In children

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

Some people are at much higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu than others.

They include:

  • pregnant women or new mothers who have given birth in the past two weeks
  • children, especially those under 2 years old
  • adults over 65
  • people whose body mass index is over 40
  • people with diabetes
  • anyone with a medical condition that compromises his or her immune system

“The important thing to do is to prevent the flu in the first place,” said Cynthia Carsten, interim director of TMC’s Emergency Department. “Wash your hands. Avoid close contact with people who have the flu and get a flu shot – and particularly if you are in a high risk group. If you’re sick, stay home if you can.”

*Arizona Department of Health Services Influenza Summary.

Flu season is here – when to bring your child to the emergency room

Over the past few weeks our pediatric and adult emergency rooms have swelled with patients with flu-like symptoms looking for relief.

While it is critical that some seek emergency help, the majority of patients with the flu do not need emergency medical care.

In the Pediatric Emergency Department we are seeing a lot of children with flu-like symptoms who have high fevers (103F-105F). As a mom to a toddler and a preschooler I know how worrying those high fevers and respiratory symptoms can be, and I have to remind myself that a fever is actually a sign of the body taking care of itself. So when should you bring your child to the emergency room and what can you do at home to relieve symptoms?

This information is meant as a guide, but should not be used in place of medical advice from your health care provider.

When to bring your child with fever and flu symptoms to the emergency room

  1. Your child is struggling to breathe.
    If your child’s skin has a blueish tinge, is breathing fast or is struggling to breath
  2. Is not waking up
    It is normal when we’re sick to sleep or rest, but if you can’t get your child to wake during the day or the child is not interacting go to the emergency room.
  3. If your child has a high-risk condition, such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or an immune-system disease and is spiking a high fever (103F-105F) seek medical help.
  4. If your usually affectionate child is so irritable he or she doesn’t want to be held
  5. Has a fever AND rash
  6. If your infant has no tears when crying or has significantly fewer wet diapers for 8 to 10 hours.
  7. Any infant less than 2 months old who has a fever over 100.4F.

My child seems to be coming down with flu-like symptoms, but none of the above apply.

The kid is miserable and so am I should we come in?

If your child is at high risk of flu complications because of another condition, call your health care provider, otherwise you can probably avoid the emergency room. Try to make children as comfortable as possible at home.

  1. Let them rest
  2. Make sure that they are getting lots of fluids to avoid dehydration
  3. Let the fever do its job. However, if your child is uncomfortable try lowering the body temperature with a lukewarm bath (do not use ice packs or a cold bath) or giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Make sure you give the right dose! Talk to your pediatrician or pharmacists for help in finding the right dose. Do not over bundle them.

What if my child has a fever over 103, should I bring them in?

My child’s temperature recently soared to 105.6 Fahrenheit, and he was uncomfortable so we brought the fever down by alternating doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, talk to your pediatrician before trying a combination approach. DO NOT GIVE THEM ASPIRIN – there has been an association with Reye’s syndrome. The medications won’t get rid of the flu, but they may help you and your child ride out the flu with less suffering. If the fever persists for more than three days or if your child develops any of the symptoms above contact your pediatrician.

What we can and can’t do in the emergency room

Make my kid better please!

There is nothing we would like more than to make your child feel better. It’s what we’ve dedicated our lives to. When it comes to the flu we are limited in what we can do. Because the flu is a virus, antibiotics like amoxicillin are USELESS. In fact, they are worse than useless and can be harmful if used when not needed.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ANTIBIOTIC MISUSE AND DRUG-RESISTANCE HERE.

While there are antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, there is a very small window at the beginning of the flu where they have limited effectiveness. Usually, by the time your child is exhibiting symptoms, it’s too late. What we can do in the emergency room is help if your child is dehydrated or struggling to breathe.

How can we stop the rest of the family from getting sick?

  1. Teach your children to cough into their elbows and model the behavior to help reduce the amount of germs flying through the air.
  2. Make sure everyone in the family practices good hand-washing technique and washes their hands frequently–after going to the bathroom, before eating or touching their face, etc.
  3. Use masks! Stop the droplets.
  4. Get the flu vaccine. I know, I know, this year’s flu vaccine isn’t as effective as usual, but it is stopping some of the flu variants, AND it may help reduce the length of time you’re affected.
  5. Eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise.

Healthy wishes,
Melissa Hodges RN

Melissa Hodges is a pediatric emergency room RN and mom to two young boys. Melissa has been at Tucson Medical Center for ten years. She is a knitting ninja apprentice, who makes a mean chili and enjoys spending time with her family and friends in beautiful Tucson, Arizona.

Flu-like symptoms? TMC One offers same-day appointment

If you are seeking immediate care for flu-like symptoms, call TMC One, 324-2160, to schedule a same-day appointment.TMC One

TMC One’s Dr. William Abraham, M.D., specializes in same-day or next-day appointment. He is board-certified in internal medicine and has more than 30 years experience. His office is located at 1396 N. Wilmot Road.

Visit TMC One online at www.TMCOne.com

 


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461