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Answers to Your Questions about the Flu
At some point, almost every child gets the flu (influenza), which is caused by a virus and usually occurs during the winter months. Hawaii’s flu season tends to be year-round because of its tropical climate and tourists. Rates of infection are highest among children, and symptoms can last a week or longer. The flu can cause severe illness and possibly life-threatening complications. Symptoms include:
• fever (usually high)
• sore throat
• muscle aches
• gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea)—more common among children than adults.
Flu’s incubation period is one to four days. It’s spread by respiratory droplets from coughs, sneezes and nasal secretions. In general, people are most contagious in the beginning of the illness.
Tests can determine if you have the flu. Treatment includes rest, fluids and fever reducers. Antiviral medications may decrease symptoms and/or decrease the length of the illness if started within the first 48 hours after the onset of symptoms.
The best protection is to get vaccinated. There are two types of influenza vaccines:
• inactivated (killed) vaccine given by injection into the muscle
• live, attenuated (weakened) vaccine sprayed into the nostrils.
Influenza viruses are always changing, so annual vaccinations are recommended.Protection develops about two weeks after the shot and lasts about a year.
Both the shot and nasal spray are cost-effective strategies for preventing influenza. Efficacy of the vaccine type varies according to the recipient’s age.
Returning to School
Children can return to childcare or school 24 hours after the fever is gone and they feel well enough for normal activities.