Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is caused by a virus which is slightly altered after each epidemic. Since it is slightly different every year, it is important to vaccinate yourself and your children every year. Our pediatricians recommend that every child between the ages of 6 months and 5 years should be vaccinated against the flu. Symptoms include fever, coughing, runny nose, pain in the throat, muscle pain, shortness of breath. The flu usually lasts between 2-7 days.
The disease is contagious and is transferred through droplets (by sneezing or coughing).
Treatment of influenza
In most cases, the flu is relatively mild and goes through the system without any need for specific medication (other than pain relievers), however, sometimes there are complications, such as pneumonia.
People who have a high-risk of developing the flu should be vaccinated following the holidays (mid-October). This includes: children and adults suffering from chronic diseases, people over 50 (as long as they’re healthy), children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, employees of the health system who treat patients. Vaccinations should be given no later than the end of November. The vaccine is reproduced every year based on the virus strains. The side effects from the vaccine are mild – in about 1/3 of the vaccines, patients will experience swelling or pain in the injection area, which disappears within 24 hours. In rare cases, patients may experience fatigue for a day or two.
The swine flu is also caused by a virus, but the virus is structured differently than influenza. Recently, the swine flu has seen outbreaks in the summer time. Unlike with the flu, people over the age of 65 are in less danger from swine flu, which is more severe amongst teenagers and young adults.
Symptoms are similar to the flu – fever, coughing, runny nose, throat pain, muscle pain and shortness of breath. The disease is contagious, and the viral transfer method is similar to that of the flu.
In most cases, swine flu is a relatively mild illness. However, in some cases it can be more severe and even life-threatening. High-risk populations include women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters, immunosuppressed patients, obese patients, patients with chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes etc. ). These patients should see a physician immediately in order to begin treatment with Oseltamivir. Oseltamivir is an antiviral medication. It is vital to begin antiviral treatment within 48 hours of the disease to prevent future problems. Pregnant women and nursing women can take Oseltamivir.
Patients who are not high-risk only require pain reliever medication and fluids. If the symptoms are mild, there is no need to go to a doctor. If, however, the symptoms are severe and include difficulty breathing, bloody coughs, excessive vomiting, dehydration, seizures, or loss of consciousness, take your child to the doctor immediately.
Prevention of Influenza
If your child needs to cough or sneeze, he should do so into a tissue and throw the tissue away immediately. If there is no tissue available, he should the inside of his elbow, NOT his hand.
Wash your hands and make sure your child washes his hands with soap and warm water before eating, before touching food, after using the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing and after touching a used tissue.
Children (and parents) with a fever (or have had a fever within 24 hours) should stay home. If your child exhibits signs of the flu while in school, he should be taken home as soon as possible. Make sure your house gets aired out every once in a while (by opening windows). Avoid having guests over and limit physical contact between your sick child and the rest of the family.
In the synagogue: a sick person should avoid going to synagogue if he has a fever or there has been less than 24 hours since he had a fever. Avoid direct contact with holy objects (such as kissing the Torah or prayer book). Try to open a window or two in the synagogue to air it out.