By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

If you have been watching TV or reading newspapers, you know that the flu season has come to Texas. Office mates, teachers, neighbors and relatives have started sneezing. The tissue boxes you finally find are usually empty just when you are holding back a gigantic sneeze.

Worried parents are swamping doctor’s waiting rooms and emergency rooms with feverish children. Many of these children will be diagnosed with the flu. Often the most significant impact is on harried parents who must schedule doctor visits while juggling work and other activities.

Of course, parents who are worried about their children should take them to the doctor — especially if the child has persistent, hard-to-break fever, severe headache or stiff neck, lots of vomiting, difficulty breathing, or if the child seems to be becoming dehydrated or has any condition that makes the parents think an illness has gone beyond the flu.

Following these tips will help to avoid time spent waiting for hastily called appointments:

· The flu causes high fever. Sometimes it causes very high fever. Most everyone we see, from babies up to teenagers and adults, has at least a fever of 102-103 F, and it’s not uncommon for their temperature to be 104-105. The temperature does not indicate the severity of the illness — the flu is still just the flu.

· How do you know if you have the flu? Check for these “head to toe” indicators: high fever, headache, congestion, sore throat, cough, chest pain and body or muscle aches.

· For most healthy people, the flu does not present a danger. The flu is just the common cold times 100. The treatment is simple: lots of fluids, lots of rest, medicine for fever and lots of time for recovery. Four to five days for recovery is not unusual.

· Antibiotics do not help. A virus causes influenza. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses and should not be given unless there is suspicion that a bacterial infection accompanies the flu.

· Kids get the flu from direct contact with another kid who has the flu. The more kids, the greater the chances that one of them will give your kid the flu.

· The best way to beat the flu is not to catch it at all. Mom and Dad should make sure everyone in the family gets his or her flu shots. You can’t get flu from the flu shot. The flu shot does not contain live virus. It can give you a sore shoulder, body aches and a slight fever, but not the flu.

Vaccinate the family. Urge others to get their flu shots, too. The more people who are protected, the fewer people there will be to give you and us and our children the flu.
 

Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children’s special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB.

The Your Health column is written by health and medical experts at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The column focuses on topical health issues that we believe are of interest to your readers. It is e-mailed every Tuesday. If you have any questions about the column, or would like to suggest topics, please contact John Koloen, media relations specialist, at (409) 772-8790 or email jskoloen@utmb.edu.