By Dr Cherian Abraham
It is well known fact that influenza, commonly known as flu, hits hardest in winter. In fact the name influenza comes from the Italian word influenza, meaning influence, referring to the influence of the season (winter) in causing the illness. Influenza is one of the most deadly of all airborne and upper respiratory infections. It’s the newborn babies and toddlers who are most commonly affected since their immunity is lower in comparison to a teenager or an adult.
Most people who get conventional or seasonal flu recover completely in a week but some cases develop into serious and potentially life threatening medical conditions such as Pneumonia. Only 5 – 10% of influenza cases go into complications.
One of the main reasons being the climate change. Influenza is a cold weather illness. This is because the influenza virus is transmitted through airborne respiratory droplets that have been introduced into the air through coughs and sneezes. When a person who has influenza coughs or sneezes, he/she propels numerous influenza viruses onto the surrounding air which the people around them can breathe in.
When a child is infected with viral fever, close proximity with other children results in faster transmission of the virus, resulting in several others being infected. The immunity in a child is much lower compared to an adult hence the chance of being infected is extremely high. Closed environment is another reason for the spread of the infection.
In most cases the infection results in fever, chills, headaches, body pain and respiratory symptoms such as, cough, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose.
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea can also accompany influenza infection.
In some cases the child experiences fatigue that’s extreme.
Extreme case – Pneumonia results in very high fever, severe body pain and vomiting, severe throat and ear pain, fits/convulsions and yellowish/greenish sputum.
Majority of the children has the symptoms for about a week and then recovers with no problems further.
When to see the doctor
Very high fever and severe vomiting.
Severe throat, ear, chest pain.
If your child is always resting due to severe body pain.
In case of yellowish or greenish sputum.
History of viral infection complications.
Heart disease affected children.
History of fits/convulsions.
Parental care for the infected child
Proper rest for your child is extremely important.
More liquid intake is necessary as inadequate intake may result in dehydration.
Maintain the normal diet in the form of semi solid and liquid intake.
Steam inhalation would help clear blockage in nose and is an instant solution to runny and stuffy nose.
In case of fever or body pain, paracetamol or nasal drops has an immediate effect on your child.
In extreme cases – pneumonia, antibiotics will be immediately suggested by the doctor.
In case of fits, loose dressing is recommended (cotton clothes). For babies, sponge the baby with cold water in order for the heat to evaporate from the body.
In case of a child suffering from influenza, parents must see to it that the child is not send to the day care or school.
Parents must ensure that their children avoid mingling with a viral infected child.
Hygiene is also extremely essential as it ensures a healthy living.
When the climate conditions have worsened, especially when it’s dusty and windy, it’s safer for the children to be indoors.
Warm food to be taken, avoid cold items. Nutrition is very important and must focus on high protein and calorie diet.
Warm clothing is a necessity covering the whole body. Wearing mufflers, gloves and socks is compulsory for children below 10 years when going outdoors.
Flu vaccines are available. Immunisation at the correct time is extremely important. It’s better to be taken during the months of October or November. It’s very safe and has no side effects. It’s highly recommended for children above the age of 6 months to be vaccinated, especially those going to day cares.
Dr. Cherian Abraham is a Specialist Paediatrician at Aster Medical Centre, Al Hilal
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