When the seasons start to change, pediatricians sense more than just winter in the air. Common colds, pink eyes, ear infections, coughs and the flu are guaranteed to arrive, just like the snow.
While most common illnesses will be over relatively quickly, it can be difficult to watch your child experience the symptoms once, let alone several times, during the season. Fortunately, there are several steps we can take to prevent illnesses.
It’s called the “common” cold with good reason; it’s the most common infectious disease in the United States. The common cold responsible for more school absences than any other illness. Most kids under age five can have 6-8 colds per year and the symptoms can last seven to fourteen days.
This contagious infection of the upper airway (nose, throat, and sinuses) is caused by a virus. A cold virus is spread from a sick person to others by sneezing or coughing or contact with the hands or mouth. A cold virus can live on toys, phones, door knobs, tables, and other objects for up to three hours and transfer to a child’s hands. The virus gets on a child’s hands and is transferred to the nose, mouth, or eyes by normal face touching habits.
Overheard in clinic last week (and a variation of this statement is heard at least once every single week… ): Parent says to the teen, “If you keep mouthing off, I’ll tell the doctor to give you shots.” No. Not appropriate to use the threats of vaccines as punishment.
We get it – nobody likes shots, not kids, not parents, and certainly not teenagers. When we see teenagers in clinic for their sports physicals or annual physicals, it is not uncommon for one or multiple vaccinations to be recommended. “BUT I thought I was done with vaccinations”, they protest – their eyes get wide, then they narrow – “I have an important basketball game tomorrow” or “I’m feeling kind of sick”. You will get no argument from your health care team that vaccines aren’t very fun, but let’s talk about the vaccinations recommended in the teenage years and why they are so important for your child’s health!
With the days getting shorter and cooler, it means it is that time of the year to make sure everyone in the family is ready with the essentials: winter coats, snow pants, boots, mittens, hats and flu shots.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a yearly flu vaccine, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
Trying to find something not political in the news has been tough in the past week or so. And then I heard the headline on the news as I was getting ready for work: 8 children have died from influenza so far this 2016-2017 flu season: One in Mississippi, 2 in Florida (a 17 year old and a 7 year old!), 1 from South Carolina (a 16 year old!), 1 in California, and 3 of these deaths were last week in New York. I am emphasizing the ages in some of these since we tend to worry more about newborns, pregnant women, and old folks. No pediatric deaths in Wisconsin….yet…but we are definitely seeing a spike in clinic visits with flu-like symptoms.