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The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Children younger than 5 and especially younger than 2 or of any age with a long term health condition (like asthma, a neurological condition, or diabetes) are especially at risk for developing flu related complications. Other high risk groups include adults 65 years of age or older, pregnant women, and residents of nursing homes and long term care facilities. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the First and Most Important step in protecting against this serious disease. Your family should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Click here to determine who should have the vaccine, who should not, and who should take precautions http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm
Flu Fact: It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. Flu vaccines do NOT protect against infection and illness caused by other viruses that can also cause flu-like symptoms
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose. Symptoms include fever or feeling feverish with chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Flu Fact: You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. Other good health habits include
- Avoid close contact: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Stay home when you are sick: If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands: Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth: Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Flu Fact: Keep your child home from school, day care or camp for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone. (Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) A fever is defined as 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, waiting until the temperature is consistently < 100 F (37.8 C) is prudent.
Caring for your child with flu symptoms can usually be done at home with rest, extra fluids and fever reducing medication as needed. Call our nurse triage line for any questions or concerns you may have.
If your child is younger than 5 years (and especially younger than 2 years) or of any age with a long term health condition (like asthma, a neurological condition, or diabetes, for example) and develops flu-like symptoms, they are at risk for serious complications from the flu. Call our nurse triage line to determine if your child should be evaluated by one of our providers.
Call right away if your child of any age has any of the warning or emergency signs below:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids (not going to the bathroom or significant decrease in number of wet diapers)
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Flu Fact: Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it’s not uncommon for cough and tiredness to linger for up to 2 weeks.