Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is that the FLU??

Picture your child miserably sick, teeth chattering, shaking chills, complaining of a sore throat, body aches, cough and headache. When you touch her forehead, she is burning up- sure enough, her temperature is 104.8*! As your brain is trying to process all this, she suddenly tries to jump out of bed and push past you but starts vomiting before she ever leaves her room. What is this? What should you do??
Well, this is no imaginary scene, but one I simply can recall from a few nights ago in our house, when our 12 year old daughter's flu symptoms first showed 2am (of course ;0) What did I do? Well, with a fever that high, the first thing I did was to give her some liquid ibuprofen. (I picked liquid so it would be absorbed more quickly, and because she was more likely to gag and vomit again if she tried to swallow a pill. And yes, I got the ibuprofen in her before I cleaned up the mess.) We put a cold, wet washcloth on her forehead and I read to her (as a distraction) for the next half hour while the medicine was kicking in. By 3am, her temperature was out of the scary range, and "just" 102*.
What I want to emphasize, though, is not the care of a high fever. I want to make it clear the difference between a common cold and the flu. A cold can cause headache, stuffy/runny nose, and sore throat, but generally does not cause intense body aches and high fevers. The flu is not so subtle! It often comes on suddenly, and the flu victim typically feels (and looks) like they've been hit by a Mack truck, with serious aches and pains in their muscles, bad headache, intense sore throat worse with swallowing, high fever, and often a cough.
So, what did she have? The flu. What type? Presumably H1N1 as 99% of type A influenza being tested right now is H1N1, and she had repeated exposure to friends & classmates with confirmed type A. She became ill on Saturday, missed 3 days of school, and is now 7 days later she is feeling back to normal, although easily fatigued.
BOTTOM LINE: Recognize that a stuffy nose, low grade temperature (99*) and sore throat are uncomfortable but very unlikely to be the flu. High fever, chills, headache, cough, sore throat and body ache at this time is most likely influenza- see your doctor and try to limit your exposure to others to slow the spread of this year's flu!

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