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Winter Medical Issues: Dealing with the Flu and More

Posted on Jan 16, 2018

Joe Perno, M.D.

Many believe the flu is no big deal, and they don’t need to worry about it.

But the flu is so much more than a regular cold, and we need to do everything possible to prevent it. Joe Perno, M.D., medical staff affairs officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, offers advice about the flu and other winter medical myths.

We are currently experiencing a very active and severe flu season. Nationwide, there have been 20 pediatric influenza deaths this season. Influenza is widespread throughout Florida.

The best thing everyone can do is get a flu shot. It is also important to practice good hand hygiene at all times and not expose others when you are sick. This includes sending children to school or going to work when you have a fever or other signs of influenza. Please stay home until fever free for 24 hours without fever medication.

It is too late in the flu season for me to get the flu shot?

It is best to get the flu shot in the fall when it becomes available, but anytime during flu season is appropriate. Flu season in Florida usually hits its peak in late winter so even now is not too late. This season has been a severe flu season and we have not even reached our typical peak yet. Although the effectiveness of the shot is variable, it remains the best method to prevent flu.

If I get the flu and take the anti-flu medicine, will I be fine?

Anti-flu medication is only effective if started within 48 hours of the start of symptoms. Therefore, the earlier you start the medication, the better. Unlike antibiotics, anti-viral medication does not treat the infection but only shortens duration of illness and potentially lessens severity. It is extremely important for the most vulnerable populations: children under 2 years, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with suppressed immune symptoms.

How harmful is fever, especially high temperatures, to a child?

This is probably the most common thing I talk to parents about each day in the Emergency Center. As we have mentioned before, fever is the body’s mechanism to fight infection. Fever definitely will make the child feel miserable with lethargy, chills, hot flashes, increased heart and breathing rate but it does not harm you. It is important to treat the fever to make the child more comfortable. It is true that fever can cause young children to have a seizure, but that generally only occurs in children who are prone to it, and it is due more to a rapid rise of body temperature than the height of the fever.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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