Flu season can be a scary time for parents. Already, this unusually intense flu season has killed 37 children nationwide, and the CDC says there are still “many weeks to come.” Those sentiments are echoed by the Texas Department of State Health Services reporting 2300 flu-related deaths in Texas this season, and that number is expected to climb.
Just this week, entire schools in North and South Texas, closed their doors with more than half their student populations out sick. And although attendance is still strong at several Houston-area ISD’s, keeping our kids healthy won’t be easy.
If it’s not the flu, it might be this.
We can start by recognizing the symptoms which include the sudden fever, headache, runny nose, cough, sore throat and, in children, they will complain of a tummy ache or diarrhea. Local media last night reported that Houston area doctors are being inundated with patients who want the flu test but are frustrated to find out they test negative for influenza.
Why is that happening? Medical experts say that’s because another family of viruses, known as adenoviruses, mimic the flu symptoms and is making its rounds, too.
Parents will happy to know that children will get better more quickly than if they have the flu, however, you should watch for two nasty additional symptoms from an adenovirus: conjunctivitis (pink eye) and an uncontrollable diarrhea. With either the adenovirus or influenza, coughing or shortness of breath should raise a red flag because it may be a result of mucus clogging the airways, which is known as bronchitis. All of these are reasons to see a doctor before symptoms worsen.
Keep them Healthy IN & OUT of School
So how in the world are parents supposed to keep kids healthy when they are at school all day surrounded by fellow “petri dish friends?”
- SCHOOL POLICIES: Ask your kid’s teacher what the hand-washing policies are at their school. And tell your child to wash hands with soap and water before and after meals, recess or large-group classes like music or gym.
- NO TOUCHING: No touching! Explain to your children that not only should they not touch other people. But they should keep their hands away from their own nose, mouth, eyes and face.
- WARDROBE CHANGE: Insist on a wardrobe change when the kids get home from school. This doesn’t have to be a big deal- let them get into more comfortable clothes- and for a few weeks, do your best to keep on top of the laundry. Those germs can live longer than you think!
- STAY HOME: Finally, PLEASE take one for the team! If your child wakes up with those glassy eyes, pink cheeks and even the SLIGHTEST sign of fever- stay home! Being fever-free for 24 hours is essential. Karma is strong here. What goes around comes around, so do the right thing.
Officially, this flu season is half-way over. And while some of these tips are great ideas all year long, if we can stay vigilant for the next few weeks, we can keep our kids healthy and in school where they belong.
BTW: It’s never to late to get a vaccine. Here is the TDSH “flu vaccine finder” on their website.