What is the flu?
Influenza, or flu, is a viral infection of the nose, throat, windpipe and large airways of the lungs. The main symptoms are a cough, sore throat, runny nose and fever. It tends to come on much more quickly - and much stronger - than a cold. If you don't have a fever, you don't have flu. Usually there's more muscle pain, headache, fever and chills than seen with the common cold. Some people also experience nausea and diarrhea.
What are the signs and symptoms of flu?
Most cases of flu in the USA involve only mild illness. Your child may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Fever (over 100 degrees F),
- Feverishness (alternating chills and sweats),
- Cough, sore throat, congestion or runny nose.
- Some additional symptoms may include muscle pain, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
Children who are getting ill may exhibit different behavior than usual, such as eating less or being irritable.
Do not send sick children to school
Children with the above signs and symptoms should not be sent to school. Children at school with these signs and symptoms will be sent home.
Students are allowed to bring hand sanitizer to school
A new school Board policy now allows students to bring hand sanitizer to school. The district does not supply this, but does allow staff and students to bring their own hand sanitizer if they choose.
Parents who send sanitizer to school with their children are strongly advised to teach them to use it safely. Hand sanitizers are meant for external use only, and can be dangerous if swallowed. Also, alcohol-based sanitizers are flammable. Do not use near an open flame or heat source. One squirt, about the size of a dime, is enough.
How do I protect my family and myself from getting the flu?
The virus is spread by sneezing, coughing and hand contact.
- Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and discard the tissue in the trash immediately. If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow (into your sleeve) - do not cough into your hands. Set a good example for your children by following these practices yourself.
- Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often. Soap and water works very well - lather and rub hands for 15-20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing the "happy birthday" song twice. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a good alternative when soap and water are not immediately available.
- Clean frequently-touched surfaces often: faucets, doorknobs, telephones, the TV remote, computer keyboards, etc.
- Don't touch your face or eyes with your hands if you have not recently washed them.
- Stay away from others if you are ill. If you are well, stay away from those who are ill.
Keep children out of school when sick
Your child may return to school after the fever is gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Get all family members protected. Children need to be over 6 months old. Flu shots should be given once a year - usually in the middle of fall, around Oct. or Nov. - but you can get a flu shot any time during the winter flu season.
You should NOT see your doctor or go to the Emergency Room if your child has mild illness - stay at home. If you or your children do not have flu, they are likely to be exposed to it in the waiting room of a doctor's office or the Emergency Room.
How do I know that my child has flu?
If flu becomes widespread in our community and your child has flu symptoms with a fever, you should assume he or she has flu. You don't need to get any special tests. You don't need to call or see your child's doctor, unless your child is HIGH-RISK (see section below "What care does my child need?") or develops a possible complication of the flu (see section below "Call your child's doctor").
What care does my child need?
The treatment of flu depends on your child's main symptoms. It's no different from treating symptoms of the common cold. Bed rest is not necessary. Antibiotics are not helpful.
- Fever or aches - Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for fever over 102°F (39°C) or for any pain. Children and adolescents who have influenza should never take aspirin.
- Cough - For children over age 6, give cough drops. If your child is over 1 year of age, give honey (1/2 to 1 teaspoon as needed). Never give honey to babies. If honey is not available, you can use corn syrup. Drugstore cough medicines are not as helpful as honey. Also, they are not approved for children under 4 years old (FDA).
- Sore throat - Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) are very helpful for throat pain. Children over 6 years old can suck on hard candy. Children over 1 year old can sip warm chicken broth or other warm liquids.
- Stuffy or blocked nose - Saline (or warm-water) nose drops followed by suction (or nose blowing) will open most blocked noses. Use these "nasal washes" whenever your child can't breathe through the nose. You can buy saline spray without a prescription. Saline nose drops can also be made by adding 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) of table salt to 1 cup (8 oz or 240 ml) of warm water. Use 2 or 3 drops at a time.
- Antiviral medicine (such as Tamiflu) - Most LOW-RISK children with the flu do not need antiviral medicine unless they develop serious symptoms (such as pneumonia). Antiviral medicines must be started within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms to have an effect. They usually only reduce the time your child is sick by 1 or 2 days. They improve the symptoms but do not eliminate them.
- HIGH-RISK children for complications - The following children are at higher risk for complications from flu: lung disease (such as asthma), heart disease (such as a congenital heart disease), weak immune system (such as cancer), diabetes, sickle cell disease, kidney disease, diseases requiring long-term aspirin therapy, other chronic diseases, pregnant teens, or children less than 5 years old.
- Expected Course - The fever lasts 2 to 3 days, the runny or stuffy nose 1 to 2 weeks, and the cough 2 to 3 weeks.
When does my child need to see the doctor?
Call your child's doctor NOW (night or day) if:
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Breathing becomes difficult or fast
- Dehydration occurs (no urine in 12 hours, dry mouth, no tears)
Call your child's doctor during the day if:
- Your think your child needs to be seen
- Your child is in the HIGH RISK group and has flu symptoms
- Earache or sinus pain occurs
- Fever lasts more than 3 days
- Cough lasts more than 3 weeks
- Your child becomes worse
Where can I get more information?