Tag Archives: sick child

Top Flu Facts to Keep Your Child Healthy This Winter

faverAs a pediatrician in a busy New York City practice, I have been asked lot of questions from concerned parents about how bad this year’s flu season has been. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked this flu season.

Why should I bother with the vaccine if it’s not effective?
While there have been a lot of headlines about how this year’s vaccine is not that effective, it is still a good idea to get vaccinated—while the vaccine is certainly not 100% effective, we still recommend parents vaccinate their children (and get the vaccine themselves!).  The latest midseason estimates by the CDC show that the vaccine is about 36% effective overall (25% effective against influenza A H3N2 virus strain – which is the most commonly circulating and virulent strain this season so far, 67% effective against influenza A H1N1, and 42% effective against influenza B virus strains). Among children aged 6 months to 8 years, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of seeking medical attention because of the flu by more than half – about 59%! Even if your child contracts the influenza virus after having received the flu vaccine, the severity of your child’s illness will likely be decreased. Additionally, the side effects of the vaccine are very minimal and significant adverse events are exceedingly rare, so the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks.

Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. The vaccine that is administered this season is the inactivated flu vaccine, which contains virus particles that have been altered such that it is impossible for them to cause infection. Generally, the vaccine may at most cause a low-grade fever, headache, nausea, or soreness at the site of injection. Remember that it is still possible to get the flu even after having received the vaccine, but it would likely be less severe. Also, keep in mind that we tend to administer the flu vaccine in fall or winter months when other viruses are already circulating so it is entirely plausible to fall sick with another virus shortly after receiving the flu vaccine.

Is it too late to get the vaccine now?
The earlier you get the flu vaccine the better, but I would still encourage anyone to get it now, especially as we are seeing such a high incidence of the flu. The flu season is likely to last several more weeks at least. The flu vaccine is one of the only ways to help reduce your risk of contracting influenza and spreading it to others. Keep in mind that it takes about 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to generate antibodies to help protect yourself from the flu virus.

I see in the news that people are dying of the flu—how worried should I be?
Influenza is a viral illness that can and does cause severe complications and possibly death in some patients every year. However, it is important to remember that most people who contract the flu develop relatively mild illness and recover fully within one to two weeks. There are certain individuals who are at high risk for developing influenza-related complications. These people include children under the age of 5 years (and especially under the age of 2 years), adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease. That being said, there are ways to help protect yourself and your loved ones. Firstly, get the flu vaccine every year and encourage your friends and family to do the same. This is one of the most important steps in protecting yourself and your child from influenza-related complications. Secondly, practice good hand hygiene and avoid contact with anyone who might be sick. Thirdly, if your child does get sick with flu-like symptoms, please be proactive and bring your child in to be evaluated as soon as possible – there are things that we as doctors can do to help. Ask your child’s pediatrician if your child would benefit from antiviral treatment for the flu.

Should I avoid taking my child to the pediatrician, with so many sick kids in the waiting room?
In general, most practices have a way to isolate people who are sick and sanitize waiting areas and exam rooms. For children who have fever and/or cough, we offer medical masks for them to wear if they are able when they check in. If you’re setting up a well appointment for your child, I’d recommend you see if there is a time of day to come when there aren’t as many people in the waiting area, to minimize flu exposure. That’s especially important for small infants or newborns—I’d suggest coming in first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. You shouldn’t skip it altogether though; it’s still a good idea to see your doctor whenever you or your child needs to.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Madhavi Kapoor, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, and a pediatrician at NYU Langone at Trinity.

Take a Sick Day or Stick It Out? Knowing When Your Child Should Stay Home Sick

faver

With winter germs flying around and busy family schedules, it can be difficult to know when your child is too sick to go to school or be around other kids. Here are some tips to help you make the call:

Determine what is “too sick” for school: In general, if your child has a fever, severe respiratory symptoms, vomiting or diarrhea, “pink eye,” or is just not feeling well enough to participate in normal activities, it’s usually a good idea for him or her to stay home to rest and recover. If you have any questions or concerns about whether your child is well enough to be around other people, you should always ask your child’s doctor.

Know what’s contagious and what’s not: There are some common illnesses or conditions that children may get that aren’t contagious, such as eczema, asthma, allergies, etc. As for those illnesses, like cold and flu, that are contagious, a good rule of thumb is that most common viral upper respiratory illnesses are generally most contagious in the few days prior to and the few days after onset of symptoms. If you are not sure if your child’s specific illness is contagious, ask your pediatrician.

Go on the defensive: One of the best things that you can do to help protect your child’s health is to teach your child to practice good hand hygiene with frequent and thorough hand washing. Additionally, children 6 months and older are also recommended to receive the flu vaccine to help protect them against influenza. If your infant is too young to receive the flu vaccine, you can help protect them by getting the flu vaccine yourself and encouraging anyone who will be in close contact with your child to also get vaccinated.

When in doubt, trust your instincts (and your pediatrician). The question of whether or not to keep your child home from school or another activity can sometimes be a tricky one to answer. The most important things to keep in mind are to trust your parental instincts and always ask your pediatrician if you are ever in doubt. Additionally, many daycares, preschools, and grade schools have set guidelines about when your child should stay home. For example, schools usually require that a child be free of fever for at least 24 hours (without receiving fever-reducing medications) before returning to school. Check in with your child’s school for more details.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Madhavi Kapoor, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center and a pediatrician at NYU Langone’s Trinity Center.