Check out the information below to learn more about seasonal flu and how to protect you and your family from it.
Effective Nov. 11, 2019 (through approximately mid-March,) visitor restrictions are now in place. Learn more about how this impacts visitors to our inpatient units using the "Visitor Restrictions" tab below.
Seasonal influenza (the flu) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. The flu can cause moderate to severe illness, and at times even lead to hospitalization or death. The flu is contagious, meaning it spreads from person to person by coughing, sneezing or talking. The people most at risk for complications from the flu are children 2 years of age or under and adults over 65 years of age, the other groups at higher risk are those who have immunosuppression. Anytime there’s a chronic medical problem, flu can make it worse.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommends everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine every year to reduce the chance of becoming sick from the flu. Getting a flu vaccine is the best way to protect your children, yourself and everyone around you.
The staff at Nationwide Children's know in order to keep our patients healthy, we must first keep ourselves healthy. By requiring all employees to get the annual flu vaccine we are protecting patients, our families and our employees.
How do I get the flu vaccine for my children or myself?
There are many options!
How do I know the flu vaccine is safe?
The flu vaccine has been around for a long time, even though components change to it every year. There are hundreds of studies that show the vaccine is safe and effective. While there are very few rare side effects for the vaccine, the risk of getting the flu and being admitted to the hospital or winding up in the ICU far outweigh the slight risk of getting a side effect.
Sometimes my child gets a little fever or some body aches after receiving the flu vaccine. Is that normal?
It is pretty common - the flu vaccine doesn’t actually give you the flu. Two or three days after the vaccine, you may feel a little bit achy or have a low grade fever. That’s your body responding to the flu vaccine and it’s saying that your body made an immune response and is giving you protection.
Need help soothing shot anxiety? Check out this blog post by Matthew Washam, MD, MPH.
What are the best ways to prevent the flu?
The best way to prevent the flu in your family is easily vaccination. Aside from vaccination, the best thing you can do is practice good hand washing. This is very important in preventing all infections. When washing hands, use either soap and water or an alcohol gel disinfectant. Make sure you rest and take care of yourself. If you have a chronic medical problem, get it controlled as well as possible.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Give your immune system a boost by:
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Getting plenty of exercise
- Eating healthy foods
- Drinking plenty of fluids
Before you take your child to the ED with flu-like symptoms, there are a few things you should know.
One child’s visit to the ED with suspected influenza may be very different from another child’s visit simply due to timing and the child’s underlying health. The longer the time period with which a child has been experiencing symptoms, certain treatments become less effective. Getting a child with suspected flu into the doctor, ED or urgent care as soon as symptoms begin offers more options for treatment than a child who has been having symptoms for a few days. The course of treatment and testing may be different depending on each child’s onset and severity of symptoms along with any underlying risk factors. And personalizing care is best medical practice regardless of whether it is flu season or not! Our doctors have answered a few of the most asked flu-related questions below.
Caring for the flu at home.
The most important thing to do to keep your child with the flu relatively healthy is to encourage fluids. They may not want to take glasses of water or juice. Small frequent sips are great. Popsicles are a nice way to get fluid into kids – even ice cream. Use whatever they’ll take when they’re sick. You can also use either acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with the fever and body aches. These medicines will only relieve the symptoms temporarily, so it’s important to follow the directions or ask your doctor is you have questions about dosage and frequency.
When do I call a doctor?
You should call a doctor if a child is showing signs of breathing trouble or not making any urine. For example, say a child is making less than two diapers a day or a toddler is not peeing at all, call your doctor. If your child is extremely sleepy to the point you can’t wake them up and get them to answer questions, you should call your doctor. Kids aren’t the quickest to wake up but if it’s slower than normal – don’t hesitate to give your doctor a call.
Will my child receive a rapid flu test?
Care teams in the hospital, urgent care centers and doctor’s offices do not need to perform a flu test in order to provide your child with the best treatment and care. If influenza is in the community, it is appropriate to make a diagnosis of the flu based on symptoms without a flu test. Flu testing is typically reserved for patients whose signs and symptoms could also be another condition. In this case, the test is used to determine whether to treat for flu or something else.
Will Tamiflu help my child?
Studies have shown that Tamiflu works best for patients when administered within 24 to 48 hours from the onset of symptoms. The more time that goes by from the onset of symptoms, the less effective Tamiflu becomes. For this reason, Tamiflu may or may not be a good fit for your child. In fact, the average child probably does not need Tamiflu. Care teams will assess your child and any risk factors before prescribing.
To protect our patients when viral season is at its worst, we may limit inpatient visitors in units with the most vulnerable patients. This is called visitor restrictions.
Effective Nov. 11, 2019 (through approximately mid-March,) visitor restrictions are now in place.
When visitor restrictions are in place, Nationwide Children’s restricts visitors to 12 years of age and older for high-risk units. We limit visitors because the fewer people who come to the hospital, the less of a chance someone is going to bring infections into the hospital which could infect patients, families or our staff. All inpatient visitors for the intensive care units, neonatal units, H4A, H8A and Hematology/Oncology must be healthy and 12 years of age and older. This includes siblings.
Patients/parents in the identified units will be asked during the admitting process to identify up to four additional people, 12 years of age and older, they wish to visit while they are inpatient. It does not matter what the relationship is to the patient (grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or support person, etc.).
The four names given will be listed in the patient’s medical record. Only visitors with their name listed will be able to visit the patient for the duration of visitor restrictions.
Please be understanding that these visitor restrictions are not permanent and are not meant to be an inconvenience, but something to keep all of us safe.
If you’re worried about the restrictions making it hard to keep in touch with your favorite patient, here are five ways to keep in touch with patients once restrictions are in place.
- Send an ecard! These get delivered directly to the patients.
- Patients can borrow Skype units from the Family Resource Center – plan a time to talk!
- Visitors can call the Gift Shop and purchase a Family Gift Card to be delivered to patients.
- Parents can drop off younger siblings (age 3-12 years) at The Clubhouse, a sibling care center.
- Hematology/Oncology patients have access to the Internet through our Patient Edutainment system, so siblings, family and friends can use social media to stay in touch!