The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that the flu season will continue for several more weeks. The flu is currently widespread in 49 states, and doctors across the country continue to see more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from influenza infections.
Julia A. Piwoz, M.D., FAAP, chief, Section of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center has created a list of Top Ten Tips for Kids (and their parents) on how to deal with the challenges of the flu.
It’s flu season again! You probably remember hearing about it every year and maybe you got sick with it before. When we say “flu”, most kids think about the flu shot, not the actual sickness because, let’s face it, nobody likes shots. The flu is caused by a type of germ called a virus and it is really contagious, especially through coughing and sneezing. When you have the flu, you can spread it to other people before you even know you have it. And the flu can change from year to year-that’s one of the reasons you have to get a flu shot each year. Eek! Don’t panic. No one likes having the flu but here are some things you can help your family get through it.
Stay home and rest - Let’s face it, a lot of kids worry about being marked absent but think about it-if you have a fever and cough, are you really going to more than just a warm body in class (a real warm body if you have a fever)? Think about it-you may have gotten the flu from someone who came to school with it and spread it.
Home means home (or grandma’s home or some other responsible adult) - If you are too sick to go to school then you probably shouldn’t be around a lot of other people. Some parents may drag you to work with them or on errands because you can’t be home by yourself. We all have important stuff to do but the office or sitting in the car is not the right place for a kid with the flu!
Rest means rest - if you are too sick to go to school when you have the flu, then you are too sick to go to religious school or music lessons or karate or sports practice or whatever kind of extracurricular things you like to do. Your body needs a lot of extra energy to fight the flu virus-you don’t need to waste it doing anything else for now. Your coach will understand.
Drink up! - You actually do need to drink more liquids when you have the flu and here are some reasons why. When you have a fever, what do you sometimes do? You sweat! Your body is losing extra fluid right there. When you have a fever, you might get chills and that uses a lot of energy. Drinking helps replace that. Making tons of mucus and coughing it up uses a lot of fluid and energy too! Some people with the flu get bad muscle cramps and you need to drink a lot to help, well, flush, the chemicals your muscles make when they are sick from the flu. And, some of the medicines kids and grownups take for the fever can be a little harsh on your stomach. Don’t get me started about vomiting….
Vomiting - You know, “the big hurl.” Call it what you want. Sometimes the flu makes you throw up and sometimes it is the medicines we take when we are sick that can cause the problem. This includes medicines like ibuprofen, so remind your parents to give you food, even a small amount, when you take it. It’s important to keep up with drinking when you are sick but take it slow-small sips-if you think you might throw up.
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases - How do you think you got sick? Cover your mouth, preferably with your arm, not your hand, when you cough or sneeze. That prevents the flu particles from flying in the air and landing on someone or something else. If you cough in your hand then grab the telephone…well…you can guess the rest-now you have a “flu phone.” Nobody wants to use a flu phone. Oh, and please don’t leave used tissues around.
It’s not good to share - If you or someone in your house is sick, don’t share drinks, water bottles, sheets, towels or sleep in the same bed.
Wash up! - Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the flu and, well, most infectious diseases from spreading. It’s important for you to keep your hands clean if you have the flu and for the people you live with too. Someone may want to wipe down surfaces you touch often and whoever does your laundry should remember to wash their hands after touching your dirty pajamas.
Pass the salt! - You’d be surprised how helpful salt can be. Salt water (saline) can be used a nose spray, or as a mist or even to squirt up your nose to clean out your sinuses. Yup, people do it. And gargling with salt water can soothe a really sore throat.
Don’t be afraid to complain. - Someone may call you a whiner but it’s really important to let your parents know if you are feeling really bad even for embarrassing stuff like diarrhea. We’ve all been there. Don’t feel guilty. If you feel like you are getting worse like having a high fever or it hurts when you breathe, tell someone right away.
Feel better already?
About Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical CenterHackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, a 775-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county’s first hospital, it is now part of one of the largest networks in the state comprised of 33,000 team members and more than 6,500 physicians. Hackensack University Medical Center was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2017-18 Best Hospital rankings - maintaining its place atop the NJ rankings since the rating system was introduced. It was also named one of the top four New York Metro Area hospitals. Hackensack University Medical Center is one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more years in a row. Becker’s Hospital Review recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America 2017. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 23 Gold Seals of Approval™ by The Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its fifth consecutive designation in 2014. Hackensack University Medical Center has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: the John Theurer Cancer Center; the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which houses the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center and listed on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. Hackensack University Medical Center is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to The Northern Trust PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events especially the Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign providing much needed research at the Children’s Cancer Institute housed at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit www.HackensackUMC.org.