Andrea M. Assantes, MD, is an badistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Health System.  Annually, we expect around 5 per One hundred percent to 20 percent of the US population is infected with the flu, and approximately 200,000 people will be hospitalized due to complications.In the year 2016-17, there were 109 pediatric deaths from influenza, and the CDC already reported a pediatric mortality this flu season Influenza can be extremely dangerous.
Anyone infected with influenza can develop complications, but those at greatest risk are infants and children, pregnant women, adults over 65 and people with diseases that include asthma, heart disease, diabetes and immune deficiency.
How can I protect myself and my family?
The most important measure in the prevention of The flu is the annual vaccination. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice recommends vaccination against influenza for all persons 6 months of age and older. There are few contraindications to vaccination against influenza. These include major medical conditions, a history of Guillain-Barre, and allergies to any component of the vaccine. However, in September 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in which all individuals, regardless of the severity of the egg allergy, can receive the influenza vaccine without any additional precautions. And pregnant women can receive the vaccine safely. Talk with your doctor about your individual circumstance.
The flu shot does not protect you right away. It will take about two weeks to create protective antibodies, so early vaccination is best. Aim for October, but remember that it's never too late.
The next best method to protect yourself from getting the flu is through good handwashing practices. Use soap and water, scrub the foreheads and the backs of your hands and between your fingers, and foam for at least 20 seconds. Sing "Happy Birthday" twice and it will meet the time criteria. Alternatively, an alcohol-based disinfectant with at least 60 percent alcohol can be effective.
Let's talk about myths:
▪ A common belief is that the flu shot can cause the flu. FALSE. The flu vaccine is made from dead viruses. The vaccine can cause mild symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, headache, muscle aches and chills. Up to 30 percent of children under 2 years of age may have a fever in the first 24 hours, but this is rare in older children. You just can not get the flu from the flu shot.
▪ It is not safe to take the flu vaccine along with other vaccines. FALSE. It is absolutely safe to administer the vaccines at the same time. However, if you have received a live virus vaccine in the previous four weeks, you must wait to be vaccinated, including the flu shot.
▪ Vaccination against influenza can cause autism. FALSE. There is a lot of research that shows that the flu vaccine is safe and is not badociated with developmental delays.
▪ The flu season only occurs during the winter. FALSE. The flu season begins in early fall and ends in late spring. However, in my office I have confirmed cases of influenza that extend until May and June of each year. Again, it's never too late to get the flu shot.
Symptoms of influenza: Influenza is a virus, but the symptoms can be more serious than other viruses. The fever usually appears suddenly and may be accompanied by body aches, sore throat, nasal congestion, cough, nausea and headaches. Younger children may also have vomiting or diarrhea. Once the initial fever resolves, you may experience coughing and congestion for an additional week or two.
Most cases of influenza can be managed at home. If detected early, your doctor may prescribe Tamiflu, which can help you recover sooner. The optimal effects of Tamiflu occur when they are administered within the first 48 hours of the disease. However, Tamiflu may not be for everyone and can cause side effects, especially in children, such as gastrointestinal upset and neurological symptoms, such as behavioral changes.
Once you are diagnosed with the flu, you must stay at home, either at school or at work, until you are fever-free for 24 hours. You are more contagious at this time. Drink plenty of fluids and consider taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and symptoms. Symptoms that the flu may be more severe and deserve the attention of a doctor / emergency room include: rapid / rapid breathing, stiff neck, persistent vomiting, dehydration / decreased urine output and lethargy.
Once the initial fever is resolved, signs of secondary bacteriality infections include earache, sinus pressure, or persistent cough. At this time, your primary care doctor should re-evaluate you to determine if you have an ear infection, sinus infection, or pneumonia. If in doubt, check!
Andrea M. Assantes, M.D., is an badistant professor of clinical pediatrics in the Health System of the University of Miami. For more information, visit UHealthSystem.com/patients/pediatrics.