January, 2020 — The Flu

Posted by West Linn-Wilsonville on 1/16/2020 1:00:00 PM

Flu season is here!  It typically begins in October and continues into May. Everyone is susceptible to getting the flu. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year millions of children get the flu, thousands of children are hospitalized with the flu, and some kids even die. Children are the most likely population to get sick with the flu.

What is the flu?

The flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. These viruses change or mutate frequently, meaning we are exposed to new types of the virus each year. It is highly contagious. Some people may have a mild case of the flu, some people may have a severe case, and occasionally someone may die from the flu. Unlike the common cold, the flu comes on suddenly.  People may complain of a fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness), or vomiting and diarrhea, which is more common in children. A person does not need to have all these symptoms to have the flu and not everyone with the flu will have a fever.

How is it spread?

The flu is usually spread via tiny droplets that are dispersed when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks. People nearby may get these droplets up their nose or in their mouth. A person could also contract the flu by touching something with flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. A person is contagious 24 hours before the flu symptoms start and continues to be contagious until about day 7 of the illness. Most people recover from the flu in a week, but they may continue to feel tired for 3-4 weeks after the illness has ended. It is especially important during flu season to be washing your hands frequently and to not touch your face.

How can I prevent the flu?

You can protect yourself from contracting the flu by getting the yearly flu vaccine. The vaccine is available to everyone 6 months of age and older. Children 6 months to 8 years of age will need to get two doses of the vaccine the first time they get it. In addition to getting the flu vaccine, you can protect yourself and your child by limiting contact with sick people and practicing frequent hand washing.

When should students and staff stay home from school?

Stay home when you are sick. If you have a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) that is a fever and you should stay home. Remain home until you are fever free (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Celsius, measured by mouth) and/or have no signs of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating) for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine. If you have vomiting or diarrhea, again remain home for 24 hours from the last episode. Finally, if you have a cough that won’t stop or any changes with your breathing, see your doctor. Following these guidelines will help prevent others from catching your illness. 

Resources:

CDC.gov (Center for Disease Control and Prevention): Influenza (flu) 9/2019

HealthyChildren.org: What’s the Latest with the Flu? A Message for Caregivers 10/2019

Harvard Health Blog: The 4 symptoms that mean your child must stay home from school or daycare; Claire McCarthy, MD 10/2019