INFLUENZA (Flu; Grippe)
INFLUENZA (Flu; Grippe)
Influenza is a common, contagious respiratory infection caused by a virus. Incubation after exposure is 24 to 48 hours. All parts of the respiratory system--nose, sinuses, throat, trachea, bronchial tubes, and lungs -- are involved. Influenza can affect both sexes, all ages, but it is unusual in infants.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications (sometimes).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSChills and moderate to high fever.
Muscle aches, including backache.
Cough, usually with little or no sputum.
Infection by viruses of the myxovirus class. The viruses are spread by personal contact.
Stress; fatigue or overwork; poor nutrition; recent illness that has lowered resistance; chronic illness, especially chronic lung disease.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Your child should avoid risks listed above.
Your child should avoid unnecessary contact with persons who have upper-respiratory infections during the flu season (winter).
A child with chronic heart or lung disease should have a yearly influenza vaccine injection. A vaccine protects against only a few--not all--types of flu.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies, such as blood tests and sputum culture (only for complications).
X-rays of the chest.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSBacterial infections, including middle-ear infection, sinusitis, throat infections, bronchitis, or pneumonia. These can be especially dangerous for very young children.
Spontaneous recovery in 7 to 14 days if no complications occur. If complications arise, treatment with antibiotics is usually necessary, and recovery may take 3 to 6 weeks.
To relieve nasal congestion, use salt-water drops (-1/4 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water).
To relieve a sore throat, the child can gargle often with warm or cold double-strength tea.
Use a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture around the child. This thins lung secretions so they can be coughed up more easily. Don't put medicine in the humidifier; it does not help.
To avoid spreading germs to others, urge your child to wash hands frequently--especially after blowing the nose or before handling food.
MEDICATIONFor minor discomfort, use non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen, cough syrups, nasal sprays, or decongestants.
Don't give aspirin to a child younger than 16. Some research shows a link between the use of aspirin in children during a virus illness and the development of Reye's syndrome (a type of encephalitis).
Your doctor may prescribe an anti-viral drug, amantadine, for seriously ill children or for those at greatest risk from complications.
Rest is the best medicine. If your child is in good general health, rest helps the body fight the virus.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet. If your child has a high fever, encourage extra fluids -- at least 8 glasses of water a day. Extra fluids, including fruit juice, tea, and carbonated drinks, also help thin lung secretions. The child should avoid milk because it thickens secretions in some children.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of influenza.
The following occurs during treatment: increased fever or cough; blood in the sputum; earache; shortness of breath or chest pain; thick discharge from the nose, sinuses, or ears; sinus pain; neck pain or stiffness.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.