You may call it winter. In our clinic, we call it flu season.  Here are some facts about the flu and what your family can do to prevent catching it:

  • The flu virus outbreaks happen mainly in the winter, typically beginning in November and peaking January and February. But cases of the flu have already been confirmed in Texas as early as October.
  • The influenza virus is serious and sneaky. It’s one of the most quickly-changing and quickly-adapting viruses in the world. While the illness usually mild, it can cause life-threatening complications like meningitis, heart infections and pneumonia.
  • Children younger than 2 years, adults 65 and over and pregnant women are among those who are most at risk for getting severe flu infections. Other at-risk groups included kids and adults with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
  • The flu is caught by inhaling or touching the droplets in the air that occur when others sneeze, cough or talk. You can also catch it by touching surfaces where others with viruses have touched.
  • The most common signs you have the flu include sudden fever, body aches and fatigue. You may also have respiratory symptoms while you have the flu like runny nose, sneezing, coughing or sore throat. Symptoms usually last around five days, but can go as long as one to two weeks in kids.
  • In most people the flu is self-limited, meaning the body will fight it off without the need for medications. If caught early enough, there are a few medications your doctor can prescribe to shorten how long the illness lasts.
  • Sometimes asthmatics need more breathing treatments, and some kids get secondary infections like ear infections or pneumonia, which may require antibiotics. But antibiotics don’t kill the flu virus itself.
  • You can take preventive measures to not catch the flu this year such as frequent hand washing (so important!) or avoiding being around those who are coughing and sneezing. But the single best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year.
  •  The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the flu vaccine!  If you haven’t done it yet – now is the time!
  • There are two types of vaccines: the shot and the nasal mist. Children over age 6 months and most adults/elderly can get vaccinated with the shot. Most people between ages 2 and 49 can get the nasal mist. The shot is safe for both pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. 
  • You may have seen certain celebrities speak negatively about vaccines or read on other blogs that vaccines aren’t safe.  This just isn’t true.  The flu vaccine is safe and does not make you sick.  Also, the vaccine won’t “give you the flu.”
  • The flu vaccine changes every year depending on which strains of the virus are most active, so it’s important to get a flu vaccine yearly.

Diane Arnaout, M.D., is a pediatrician with Cook Children’s Willow Park office located at 136 El Chico Trail, Willow Park, TX 76087. You may book an appointment with her by calling 817-441-5412.

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