By: Dr. Leah Pedoeim
School is back in session, and believe it or not, winter is just around the corner – bringing with it the promise of snow days, hot chocolate, and unfortunately, respiratory viruses. While the flu may feel like old news in the post-pandemic landscape, the truth is that the flu is just as prevalent and just as nasty as its always been. We know that lately the emergence of new COVID vaccines and RSV treatments there has been some vaccine guidance overload…It can be hard to keep it all straight. So, here’s what you need to know about the flu vaccines and treatments to protect your family this year:
Why worry about the flu?
While it may seem similar to other upper respiratory viruses, Influenza (or “the flu”) has gained its infamous reputation by causing more severe illness – including higher rates of hospitalization and complications than your run-of-the-mill cold. So how can we prepare for the flu season?
How do we protect ourselves?
The best way to treat the flu is to prevent it, and the best way to prevent the flu is with vaccination! A new updated version of the flu vaccine is made available each year, usually around the end of August. It is tailor-made to target the strain of the flu which is expected to be most prevalent for the upcoming flu season. While the flu vaccine is more effective some years than others at preventing the flu completely, it always helps to reduce the severity and duration of illness if your children do get sick with the flu. We recommend that all patients receive the flu vaccine, and we recommend vaccination sooner rather than later. It is NOT too early to get the flu shot, as immunity will last through the flu season! Remember, all children under 8 years will need TWO doses of the flu vaccine (4 weeks apart) the first time that they are vaccinated. And yes, your child can likely receive the flu vaccine even if they have an egg allergy – though we recommend talking with your provider about your child’s specific allergies before moving forward with vaccination.
Sign up for your flu shot HERE
But what if we get it anyway?
Even with vaccination, it is possible that you or your family will get the flu – and that’s ok! Tamiflu is an antiviral medication which can be taken to help reduce the severity and duration of the flu. We typically most recommend Tamiflu for patients 6 months – 2 years of age, or those with underlying medical conditions such as moderate/severe asthma. Because Tamiflu can come with certain side effects, we do recommend that you speak with your provider about use of this medication for your child. Remember, Tamiflu must be taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms. And like other respiratory viruses, supportive care is key – think Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin) to manage fevers and body aches, plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and steamy showers to help with that nasty cough.
Do we need antibiotics?
Because it is caused by a virus, the flu cannot be treated with antibiotics. However, children can develop “secondary” or “superimposed” infections after they have become sick with the flu. These secondary infections, such as ear infections or pneumonias, are commonly caused by bacteria and so may require treatment with antibiotics. The best way to identify and diagnose one of these secondary infections is with an in-person exam by a provider. We recommend that all children be seen in person if they have persistent fevers for over 4 days, breathing difficulties, or signs of dehydration.
The winter season can seem daunting, but remember that as always, we’re here to help! Please call or message us If you have additional questions or concerns not covered above, or need specific advice for your child. And don’t forget to take advantage of our new in-house urgent care, POPNOW, where you can self-schedule for routine sick visits and/or utilize expanded services like IV fluids, advanced breathing treatments, and more!