LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As we continue to report on the Coronavirus, it's easy to lose sight of the health risk right in front of us: the flu. It's why our gown talk focuses on the most vulnerable along us: our children.
We are not out of the woods yet. Type A and B flu strains continue to be a threat, especially in kids.
At CHI St. Vincent West, Pediatrician Dr. Joe Elser sums it up this way: “There's a lot more flu, but maybe less severe than usual.”
Yet, there are special groups of kids that need extra attention.
“And that includes kids less than two,” Dr. Elser said. “Kids that have chronic medical problems, specifically asthma, diabetes, any kind of cancer, even overweight kids that are a bit more at risk to have complications of the flu.”
For children not in any of those groups, the issue then becomes, when to take them in to see the doctor?
“If a child has fever, cough, congestion, like other viruses do, and they treat symptoms and they seem better, then they don't necessarily need to be seen,” Dr. Elser said.
But, they do need to stay home from school. Keeping sick kids away from healthy ones prevents the spread. Dr. Elser said to keep them home until
they are fever free for 24 hours without treatment.
But what if the fever breaks but the cough doesn't leave?
“You can cough for two weeks after having the flu, but as long as they don't have fever then we're past the contagious stage,” Dr. Elser said.
It's that contagious stage that has Dr. Elser looking forward to spring break.
“You know the best thing that happens is when schools let out for a few days and you keep people away from everybody. We see a dip in the whole influence of flu,” he said.
But you can't keep closing schools.
“If we really want to restrict the spread, not only do we keep sick people away from well people, but we wash our hands.”
Doctors continue to try and give kids their best shot.
“Critical they get the flu shot, " he said. "We give the flu shot to kids as young as six months.”
The shots, the hand washing, watching for headaches, body aches, cough, congestion, and the big fever.
“I tell parents we treat fever but we don't chase fever. It's the body's way to help fight the infection," Dr. Elser said. "It's not important for a child to be fever free. It's important that they feel good.”
The better our kids feel, the better for us all.
Approximately 41 schools have closed at one time or another this year, because of the flu. Arkansas has had one child die so far, and experts agree that's one too many.
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