As we battle cold temperatures this winter, we will continue to see a lot of colds, coughs, influenza (flu) cases and other respiratory illnesses.
There are several strains of the flu virus, which is a contagious respiratory illness that can result in mild to severe illness. The flu virus kills tens of thousands of people and hospitalizes more than 200,000 people in the United States each year, making it the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in our country.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is also a common respiratory illness impacting the lungs and breathing passages of patients. For most healthy people, RSV is like a cold that goes away in one to two weeks. But, RSV can be serious, especially for infants, children with weakened immune systems due to another medical condition and older adults.
How to prevent the flu: The best way to protect against the flu is to get an annual flu vaccination. Although the flu vaccine does not fully protect against all strains of the flu virus, it does provide some protection. If you haven’t already, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine since you can get the flu at any point in the year.
More ways to prevent the development of flu and other respiratory illnesses: Wash your hands often; sneeze and cough into your elbow; keep your stress level down; get plenty of sleep; make healthy food choices; exercise; and limit your exposure to people who are sick.
When to call a doctor if your child is ill: Contact your child’s doctor’s office if he/she has a temperature that reaches 103°F; has difficulty breathing (such as retractions, grunting or noisy breathing); has a repetitive cough while at rest, especially if it brings up phlegm; or has underlying issues, like asthma or another chronic illness, and begins to show respiratory symptoms.
When to keep children out of school: You should keep your child home from school or daycare if he/she has a fever of 100.5°F or higher; has difficulty breathing; or has a repetitive cough while at rest. Each school or daycare is different, but a good rule of thumb is if a child hasn’t had a fever for at least 24 hours, is drinking and eating well, and does not have any significant respiratory problems, then they are probably okay to return to school or daycare.
If you or a loved one does get sick this winter or throughout the year, Mercy’s care team is available to help. To find a nearby health care provider, visit www.mercy.net/search/doctor. Have a happy and healthy 2017!