Thursday, September 14, 2006

Prepare for Cold and Flu Season

By Brandi M. Seals

It can be hard when your child is sick to decide whether or not to take him to see a doctor. Half of the time you get sent home and told to wait it out. Junior has picked up the flu or the common cold. Next time be prepared. Familiarize yourself with common cold and flu symptoms.

The Common Cold
A cold is characterized as a viral infection that affects the upper airway including the nose, throat, and lungs. Over 200 different viruses cause colds, but 30 to 50% are caused by a group known as rhinoviruses. Cold symptoms can last from two to 14 days.

Symptoms of the common cold usually begin two to three days after infection and often include:
Runny Nose
Obstruction of nasal breathing
Swelling of the sinus membranes
Sneezing
Sore throat
Cough
Headache
Watery Eyes
Chills
Muscle Ache
Lack of Appetite

Fever can be an additional symptom. It is not a common symptom but a mild fever may occur at the start of the illness. The fever is usually mild but may rise to 102 degrees in infants and children.

Colds can make people more susceptible to infections such as strep throat, and sinus infections. A doctor should be consulted to see if a secondary bacterial infection has been acquired if the cold does not start improving within a week or if the person with the cold experiences any of the following:
Chest pain
Problems breathing
Bluish lips or fingernails
Cough with greenish-yellow or grayish sputum
Skin rash
Swollen glands
Whitish spots on the tonsils or throat
Fever for more than a couple of days

Barring a secondary infection, no medicine is needed to cure the common cold. Simple bed rest and plenty of fluids can help. Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics do not work against the viruses. They can actually reduce the body's ability to fight viruses. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can help reduce fever and muscle aches, but never give aspirin to children. There is a risk that children that are given aspirin could develop Reye's syndrome.

Reye's syndrome is a rare although serious illness that usually affects children aged three to 12 years old. It can affect all organs, but most often the brain and liver are injured. Most children who survive Reye's syndrome do not suffer any lasting consequences, however the illness can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

The Flu
The flu is a very contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Every year an average of 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu in the United States. The flu can be very serious. Each year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and approximately 36,000 people die from it.

Flu symptoms include:
Fever (usually high)
Headache
Extreme tiredness
Dry cough
Sore throat
Runny/ stuffy nose
Muscle aches

The flu can also come with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea but these symptoms are more common in children than adults

Having the flu can make a person more susceptible to complications such as bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, or lead to worsened chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

The flu virus usually spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes the virus is spread when people touch something with flu viruses on it and then touch their mouth or nose.

People with the flu may be able to infect others starting a day before symptoms develop and can continue to do so up to 5 days after becoming sick.

The best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated in October or November. Anyone who wishes to stay clear of the flu should be vaccinated. However, high risk individual should be vaccinated every year.

Those that need to get vaccinated include:
Children aged 6-59 months of age
Pregnant women
People 50 years of age and older
People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.
Health care workers
Out of the home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age

Some people should not be vaccinated without talking to a doctor first. They include:
Those with a severe allergy to chicken eggs
Those who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past
Those who developed Guillain-Barre syndrom within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously
Children under 6 months of age

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