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It’s Time For Your Flu Shot

By Dr. Nikita Mathew, DO PGY1

“Every year, 10 to 40 million people are affected by the influenza virus, resulting in 140,000 to 960,000 hospitalizations annually.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As Halloween decorations come up and pumpkin spice lattes are around every corner, the other hallmark of fall also emerges—the flu vaccine. Symptoms typically include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • sore throat
  • body aches

5 common questions about the flu vaccine

  1. Can I get the flu shot? Everyone over the age of 6 months is eligible for the flu vaccine. This includes special populations such as pregnant women, adults with chronic health conditions, and those over 65 years old. Exceptions to the flu vaccine are very limited, and include children less than 6 months old and those who had severe allergic reactions to the flu vaccine. You may have heard that those with egg allergies cannot get the flu shot, but the CDC recommends that these individuals still get the vaccine, but they may need to be monitored briefly afterward in a healthcare setting for allergic symptoms. There are also egg-free vaccines available.
  2. Why do I have to get the flu shot every year? The influenza virus changes year to year, so the flu vaccine you got last year likely will not protect you from the specific strain that is widespread this year. Researchers develop vaccines that will fight this year’s particular strain of the virus to maximize your protection. In addition, your immunity decreases over time so getting the vaccine annually helps build up your immunity again.
  3. When should I get the vaccine? The influenza virus is seasonal, typically starting in mid-October and peaking in winter. Your body will produce sufficient antibodies within two weeks after getting the vaccine. This is why the CDC recommends getting your flu shot sometime between September and late October. However, it’s never too late to get one, even past October. Flu shots will continue to be available well into winter and can protect you from the remainder of the flu season.
  4. Why do I feel like I have the flu after getting the shot? The flu vaccine contains an inactivated strain of the virus, meaning it cannot cause the flu but it does trigger your body’s immune response. This can result in body aches or a low-grade fever, but these symptoms are significantly less severe than those caused by the actual flu virus and resolve in 1-2 days, if present at all.
  5. How will the flu season be affected by COVID-19? Getting the flu shot is important every year, but especially this year in light of COVID-19. The pandemic has already stretched hospitals and healthcare resources pretty thin. Being vaccinated against the flu and reducing the risk of hospitalization is essential to help avoid an overlapping peak of influenza and coronavirus this winter. The flu shot will not make you more or less susceptible to COVID-19 since the viruses are completely separate.

Getting vaccinated not only helps protect you, but also helps protect your community and eases the burden on hospitals and the healthcare industry. Flu shots are currently available at NOAH clinics, so schedule an appointment today!

Tis’ the Season – When is a Cold Not a Cold?

By Dr. Patty Avila, Pediatrician

It is that time of year again!  The busy time of year when everyone is preparing for the holidays is also when children are getting more colds and other respiratory illnesses.  These are the most common type of illness that children will see their doctor for, and it is important to recognize when to worry or not.  Most of these will be simple colds and resolve on their own, but there are some that can be serious.

The Common Cold; also called an Upper Respiratory Infection.

The common cold is caused by several different viruses and is the most common of all the respiratory illnesses. In the 1st 2 years most children will have about 3 to 5 colds per year. Older school age children and children in daycare can get sick even more often, because they are exposed to others.  Fortunately, most of these are just colds and will go away on their own and not lead to anything worse. 

Symptoms of the Common Cold:

  • Low fevers (101-102 degrees F).
  • Runny nose, nasal congestion comma and sneezing.
  • Sore throat.
  • Cough.
  • Not eating well.
  • Fussiness.

Most children will be better after 7 to 10 days of illness, but some may take up to 10 to 14 days to get better.

When to worry with the common cold:

Most children will not need to see their doctor with a common cold or upper respiratory infection. Infants younger than 3 months should see their pediatrician because they are at higher risk of getting very sick. 

See your doctor immediately if your child or infant is having:

  • Trouble breathing or fast breathing – using their muscles in between their ribs to breathe or the openings of the nose get larger with every breath.
  • Nails or lips turn blue.
  • The symptoms are lasting longer than 10 to 14 days.
  • Dehydration or not drinking well and not urinating well.
  • Child/infant is too sleepy or very fussy and not consolable.
  • Ear pain or any other concerns for child/infant not improving or getting worse.

Antibiotics do not treat the common cold since it is caused by a virus. 

Supportive care includes:

  • Increased fluids.
  • Use of pain/fever medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Nasal saline with suctioning for congestion.
  • Honey for cough in a child OLDER than 1 year (NEVER given an infant <1 year of age honey).
  • Use of a humidifier may provide relief. 

The Flu; sometimes called Influenza.

The flu is also caused by respiratory viruses called influenza and can present very similar to the common cold.  Children with the flu feel much worse and are sicker than with the common cold.  The flu can have very serious complications including need for hospitalization and sometimes death.   

Symptoms of the Flu:

  • Rapid onset of high Fevers (above 101 degrees F), chills.
  • Headaches, body aches.
  • Runny nose, nasal congestion.
  • Chest pain and cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Feeling tired and weak.

Most children will get better after 2 weeks. Fevers from the flu can last up to 5 to 7 days. 

See your doctor immediately if your child or infant is having:

  • Trouble breathing or fast breathing – using their muscles in between their ribs to breathe or the openings of the nose get larger with every breath.
  • Nails or lips turn blue. 
  • Dehydration or not drinking well and not urinating well.
  • Child/infant is too sleepy or very fussy and not consolable.
  • Ear pain or any other concerns for child/infant not improving or getting worse.

Young children and infants as well as children with high-risk medical conditions should see their pediatrician as soon as possible. These high-risk medical conditions include:

  • Heart defects.
  • Chronic lung issues.
  • Asthma.
  • Low immune system.
  • Diabetes.
  • Cancers. 

Supportive care includes:

  • Increased fluids.
  • Use of pain/fever medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Nasal saline with suctioning for congestion.
  • Honey for cough in a child OLDER than 1 year (NEVER given an infant <1 year of age honey).
  • Use of humidifier may provide relief. 

Outside of supportive care, there is an antiviral medication called Tamiflu which may be indicated and started if the flu is diagnosed within the first one to 2 days.

Bronchiolitis.

Bronchiolitis is another respiratory illness that can be commonly seen during the winter months.  There are several viruses that can cause this illness but RSV, also known as Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is the most common.  RSV is an infection that will affect almost all children at least once before they turn 2 years old.  It usually starts as a cold and is followed by lower respiratory symptoms around 3 to 5 days of the illness.  For some children the illness can be severe, especially younger infants, preemies, and those with heart or lung defects.   

Symptoms of Bronchiolitis:

  • Cold symptoms with fevers, runny nose, nasal congestion, and cough.
  • Fussiness.
  • Poor Feeding.
  • Wheezing.
  • Difficulty breathing.

See your doctor immediately if your child or infant is having:

  • Trouble breathing or fast breathing – using their muscles in between their ribs to breathe or the openings of the nose get larger with every breath.
  • Nails or lips turn blue. 
  • Dehydration or not drinking well and not urinating well.
  • Child/infant is too sleepy or very fussy and not consolable.
  • Ear pain or any other concerns for child/infant not improving or getting worse.

Supportive care includes:

  • Increase fluids.
  • Use of pain/fever medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Nasal saline with suctioning for congestion.
  • Honey for cough in a child OLDER than 1 year (NEVER given an infant <1 year of age honey).
  • Use of humidifier may provide relief. 

For infants who are high risk there is an injection that is given monthly during the winter months called Synagis that can decrease the risk of severe RSV infection. 

Croup.

Croup is a common respiratory illness during the Fall and Winter months and is usually seen in infants and young children – children younger than 5 year of age.  It is caused by several different viruses including the flu virus and some cold viruses.  The illness is characterized by swelling of the upper airways including the voice box (larynx) and the windpipe (trachea). Symptoms from Croup are usually worse at the beginning of the illness. 

Symptoms of Croup:

  • Fevers which can be low grade or high.
  • Cold symptoms with runny nose and nasal congestion.
  • Hoarseness of voice.
  • Barky or “seal like” cough.
  • Noisy breathing when breathing in – stridor.

The swelling of the airway can sometimes be severe and need immediate medical attention.

See your doctor immediately if your child or infant is having:

  • Trouble breathing – struggles to catch their breath.
  • Noisy breathing that is getting louder and child/infant appears to struggle to breathe.
  • Cannot talk because of difficulty breathing.
  • Lips/mouth or nails turn blue.
  • Drooling and not able to swallow saliva.
  • Dehydration or not drinking well and not urinating well.
  • Child/infant is too sleepy or very fussy and not consolable.

Steroids can decrease the swelling and can be given by mouth, injection, or in a breathing treatment.  If given early can help decrease the need for hospitalization and improve breathing.  There are breathing treatments with epinephrine that can be given as well in severe cases, but these will require careful observation in the Emergency Department or Hospital setting.

Use of cold moist air can help improve mild symptoms as well and can be used at home with a cool mist humidifier.

PREVENTION TIPS

  • For all respiratory infections, the best form of prevention is to avoid exposing infants/young children to people who are sick or crowded situations. 
  • Breastfeeding infants as long as possible (at least 6-12 months) is also an important way to help prevent and fight infections because breastmilk provides antibodies. 
  • Practicing and teaching children good hand hygiene is key.
  • Use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds (singing the ABCs).  Another option is the use of an alcohol-based hand rub if hands are not visibly soiled. 
  • Teach children to cover their coughs and sneezes properly by using a tissue or coughing in their arm rather their hands. 
  • Keep children home from daycare or school when they are sick to avoid spreading the illness. 
  • Eating a healthy balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables can help boost the immune system and help decrease the chances of getting sick.   

At NOAH, we’re here for you. If you have any questions for your child’s pediatrician, give us a call at 480-882-4545. You can also send a message to your pediatrician via your child’s MyChart account.

Why Get Your Child a Flu Shot by Dr. Amit Jain, Pediatrician

It’s that time of year again! The fall and winter seasons are approaching. Along with exchanging presents during the holiday season, everyone, especially children, are passing around germs and illnesses between each other. We here at NOAH want to inform you about the flu and why it is important to protect your child against the flu with the flu vaccine.

The Flu is short for Influenza – a virus that most often causes an illness that affects our breathing and airways. There are many different viruses that can cause common cold symptoms, but influenza is different in that it is more contagious, and often causes worse symptoms, lasts longer (a week or more) and has more severe problems that it can cause compared to other common cold viruses including pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), and a bacterial infection.

The flu is highly contagious, and most often spread via droplets, meaning it is most often caught from being near when a person with flu coughs or sneezes. It can also be caught when a child touches something contaminated with the flu virus, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

The symptoms of the flu include:

  • Sudden, often high fever
  • Chills
  • Body shakes
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Being more tired than usual
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Some children may even throw-up (vomit) and have diarrhea

Although the likelihood of getting the flu is high, the children who would suffer the greatest problems from getting the flu are:

  • Those with chronic medical conditions – especially respiratory conditions including Asthma and chronic lung disease
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Weakened immune system
  • Disorders of the brain or nervous system

How can you prevent or decrease the risk of your child getting this scary flu virus? The best way to protect against the flu is the influenza vaccine. All infants and children 6 months old and older can get the flu vaccine every year. Since babies younger than 6 months cannot get the influenza vaccine, the best way to protect them is that everyone around and taking care of the baby get the flu vaccine. Along with this, frequent, good hand washing with soap and water is especially important. If you cough or sneeze, be sure to do so into your elbow (like a vampire holding their cape!) or into a tissue, but not directly into your hands. Teach your children these good habits from a young age as well! Sanitize toys that your children play with frequently as well.

Along with this, it may be a good idea to keep your child home from daycare or school if they are having the following symptoms:

  • Fevers (usually a temperature greater than 101F)
  • Chills and shaking of the body
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Tiredness / sleepiness
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose / congestion
  • Dry cough

Do not hesitate to bring your child in to your NOAH clinic to evaluate your child and determine if any treatment would be helpful. 

The side effects from the flu vaccine are few, and generally much less severe than getting infected with the flu. These include:

  • A low-grade fever
  • Some redness and soreness around the site that the injection was given.
  • The flu vaccine is made using eggs. Those who have a severe allergy to egg (anaphylactic reaction) should have a discussion with their doctor before getting the flu vaccine.

At NOAH, we are here to help you and your child get through the cold and flu season safely and healthily. Please call today to make an appointment to get you and your child the flu vaccine!

For more information, please visit:

  1. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/Pages/The-Flu.aspx
  2. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Prepare-Your-Family-for-Flu-Season.aspx
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm