By Dr. Amy Deehr, pediatrician, Mankato Clinic Children’s Health Center
Healthy holidays are the best gift ever! Let’s talk about how to prevent illness when influenza B and RSV are circulating in our community.
When it comes to the flu, we are seeing a different trend this year. Flu usually comes to Minnesota a little later, but influenza B is here. The symptoms are body aches, fever, chills and headache.
We also are seeing RSV at Children’s Health Center. Studies show most children are exposed to RSV by the age of 2 and do just fine. However, kids this age are at a higher risk for complications. Typically, RSV causes a cold that can last 5-7 days with symptoms peaking on days 3-5 of the illness.
In our littlest ones, RSV can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia which makes it difficult for children to breathe. If your child is having trouble breathing, see your health care provider or go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room immediately. Scientists are working on a vaccine, but RSV has proved elusive.
Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help protect your family from getting sick
- Avoid close contact – kissing, shaking hands, sharing cups and utensils
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your coughs/sneezes – sneeze into your elbow not hands.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
- Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
The flu season lasts through the winter so it’s not too late to get a flu shot. It takes 10-14 days for your body to develop antibodies. Every year, we look at the Southern Hemisphere and cover those strains as well as we can. The vaccine can only cover several strains. The more strains we add, the less effective the flu shot becomes. Next year, plan to get your flu shot by Halloween.
Should your children get a bad cold, RSV or influenza, we recommend waiting it out. While we can treat children with Tamiflu, the side effects can include vomiting, diarrhea and tummy aches. Sometimes the side effects can be worse than the cold and flu symptoms. We also have to treat the flu virus within the first 48 hours of the illness. Unless children are at high risk, we normally don’t prescribe an antiviral drug.
We encourage parents to treat the cold symptoms with Tylenol, ibuprofen, blowing the nose or suction the nose for little ones, humidifying the room and nasal saline. We do not recommend over-the-counter remedies such as cold medicine, decongestants or NyQuil. For children over 12 months, honey can be used to help suppress the cough. Babies under 12 months cannot have honey because it can cause botulism as their immune and digestive system is not fully developed.
Our bodies get fevers to help fight infection. Fevers do not need to be treated if the child is doing fine and eating and drinking. Do treat the fever with Tylenol or ibuprofen if your child is uncomfortable and not eating or drinking.
If a fever returns a few days later, it’s a good idea to see your health care provider. A returning fever can be a sign a bacterial infection such as an ear infection or pneumonia has developed. It’s more common to get a bacterial infection when the body has been busy fighting a virus.
When we gather for the holidays, alcohol is often flowing. Please keep alcohol well out of reach of your little ones. Alcohol can have more serious effects in children including hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Children can go into a coma or stop breathing. Alcohol can be really dangerous for young children.
With the holidays in full swing, try to keep your kids on their normal eating and sleeping routine. Naps, sleep and fueling food are so important for their well-being.
Here’s wishing you and your family a healthy New Year!