Dear flu season, on behalf of every parent, everywhere, we want you to know, we hate you. As if being sick in general isn’t hard enough, add being sick and taking care of sick babies to the mix. This year is the first time in my adult life that I can recall having the flu. Not only did I fall victim to this nasty virus but it also managed to wipe out my whole family in a matter of days.
It all started with my 6-month-old. Where and how she managed to get a hold of this funk I’m still not sure. The worst part is the flu typically has an incubation period of 4-6 days, so you don’t even know who to blame! But she got it. After a dreaded visit to our pediatrician and having to sit on THAT side of the room. You know the side – the “I’m not here for a well-visit side,” the “I’m potentially sick and have to sit next to other infected people side.” It was confirmed. She had the flu.
So long story short, here I am on our 6th day of house arrest. I have spent the better part of my week consoling crying babies and trying to get pictures of record-breaking snot bubbles being produced. My 6-month-old passed it onto her sister, who passed it onto her grandparents and then her dad and then you guessed it, mom!
According to Wolfson Childrens Hospital, “We are in the midst of one of the most severe flu seasons in a decade” So, with that being said I reached out to several friends who work in different aspects of the medical field (ER nurses, nurses in pediatricians offices, and school nurses) to get some insight on this year’s flu season. Symptoms to look for, precautions you can take, and their take on the controversial flu shot. Please consult your own physician if you are feeling sick or have any of the symptoms mentioned.
What symptoms should I be looking for?
- Body aches
When should I see a doctor?
Sooner than later. If you do in fact test positive for the flu, ‘Tamiflu is most effective within 72 hours of symptoms beginning. You will never regret going to the doctor and no one is judging you for being too careful.” If you feel dehydrated and can’t keep any liquids down, go to the doctor. If your fever is 103 or higher, go to the doctor. If you just feel unsure and would rather be safe than sorry, go to the doctor.
How long should I expect to be sick?
Days to weeks. Each person asked, said they’ve seen this pass in as quick as 3-4 days and others said they’ve seen it linger for 2-3 weeks.
What can I do to prevent my family from getting sick?
Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands! This can not be emphasized enough. Not only do you help protect yourself but you help protect others around you. If you don’t have access to soap and water use hand sanitizer but “after every three uses, be sure to wash your hands.” Seeing a pattern yet? Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid overly populated places. Even grocery stores can be a breeding ground this time of year. People all wandering around waiting to fill prescriptions touching things you then pick up. So make sure to wash your hands! If you need to see a doctor, most offices offer face masks, use them. Wait outside if weather permits and be sure to wash your hands!
When should I skip the doctor’s office & go to the ER?
- If you have a fever that will not break even after rotating Tylenol/Motrin
- If you are lethargic or having trouble breathing
- If you are dehydrated and can’t keep fluids down
When should I keep my kids home from school?
“Preferably at the onset of illness but definitely if they have a temperature of 100 or greater.” In most cases, a fever doesn’t present itself until days after the onset of symptoms.
When should my kids return to school?
Our pediatrician’s office recommends kids stay home a minimum of 5-7 days if they have tested positive for the flu. At a minimum, they can return to school after being fever free for 24 hours without the help of Tylenol or Motrin. Also, if your child has been sent home from school with a temperature they should not return to school the next day.
What preventative measures can I teach my kids?
- Wash their hands constantly
- Avoid touching their face
- Coughing and sneezing into their elbow
- Don’t share food/drinks with friends
- Clip hand sanitizer onto their backpacks
When should I take my child to the doctor?
Again, as soon as symptoms arise. The sooner the better. Pediatricians typically recommend the first 24-48 hours. Also, it’s important to note that a child under 3 months old with any fever warrants a trip to the ER. If over 6 months a fever of 103 or higher. “Lastly make sure your local hospital has a pediatric unit. If they don’t, go to a hospital that has one. There is no point in going to one that doesn’t because if your little one needs admitting to the hospital, they will be transported anyway.”
How can I prevent spreading the flu?
STAY HOME! “So often I swab kids and families for the flu who test positive and later see them at Target or Chick-fil-a that same afternoon.” If you need a grocery run try asking a friend or family member to help you out or consider having your groceries delivered right to your door (a la Instacart). Don’t forget to sanitize toys, avoid play dates, parks, etc.
And last but not least…
What is your take on the flu shot?
Looks like the jury is still out on this one! Out of 10 people polled, 4 said in confidence that they don’t receive their annual flu shot. But all agreed that this year’s flu shot definitely missed the mark. While it wasn’t as effective as past years it has been shown to lessen the length of symptoms. “If you do get the shot and still get the flu, it won’t be as bad as someone who did not get the shot and got the flu.”
In a nutshell
“The earlier you act the better. The flu usually preys on kids, the elderly, and those already immunodeficient. The flu is probably not going to kill you if you’re generally healthy, but it should be taken seriously especially in children or an elderly person.”