MemorialCare health system, excellence and health care presents weekly dose of wellness. Here's your host, Deborah Howell.Deborah Howell
Welcome to the show, I am, Deborah, how and today we'll be talking about the flu and what we as parents need to know about it. Our guest today is Dr. Eric Morley, a pediatrician with Memorial Care Medical Group. Welcome, Dr. Morley.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Hi, thanks for having me.Deborah Howell
Absolutely. Now we have something in common in that both our dads were doctors. However, you actually followed in your dad's footsteps, and I clearly did not.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
I did, yes.Deborah Howell
Well, you know, the flu is certainly one of the major reasons patients went to see both of our fathers, and it persists to this day. Dr. Morley, why is this particular flu season more aggressive than others?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Yeah, there's a few reasons. First of all, the current strain of flu, which is known as H3N2, is genetically much more aggressive than some of the previous strains. So that's that's number one. But you know, something else is going on is there's a lack of people becoming immunized and when not enough people get the flu vaccine, you start losing something called herd immunity. And herd immunity is where enough of the population is vaccinated to prevent the transmission of the disease between people. So those two things more aggressive illness and less people getting immunized are largely responsible for a more severe season.Deborah Howell
Got it. Now is the flu shot effective?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
The flu shot is effective now. A lot of people have said, well, the flu shot is not that effective, and that's why I'm not getting it. The official number is it's about 30% effective. However, you have to kind of look at how that's defined and when they're defining effectiveness. They're defining, they're saying for something to be effective. That means you don't get the disease at all. But the interesting thing is with the flu shot is that even if you end up getting the flu, if you had the flu shot, you will have a less severe illness and for a shorter duration. So it is definitely effective.Deborah Howell
OK, and now the myth of all myths, can you get the flu from the flu shot?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
No, it's it's impossible to get the flu. From the flu shot to the flu shot is a dead vaccine. So a lot of people may think that you can get the flu from the flu shot for a few things. First of all, there are occasionally small side effects like soreness, headache, fever that you get as a result of the body ramping up against the flu shot and that may be mistaken for the flu. And the other thing is that most people end up getting the flu shot during the the cold and flu season. So if they got the flu shot and then they happen to get a cold, you know, a day or two later, they may think, Oh, well, that that was the flu and I got that from the flu shot.Deborah Howell
Got it, okay. So here's another thing that confuses people what's the difference between a cold and the flu in children?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Well, a cold is really kind of just a generic term for a typically a viral upper respiratory infection. And when we say viral upper respiratory infection there, there are a lot of viruses going around right now. And for much of the year, they can they can cause them. Flu is only one of those viruses, and flu tends to be much more severe in and lasts for a longer period of time. So essentially a cold and the flu are kind of the same thing, but the flu is a more severe version than most courts.Deborah Howell
Maybe you can walk us through the symptoms.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Sure. A lot of times both of them will have a cough, runny nose fever. Flu tends to have more body aches. Some people have vomiting or or diarrhea. But those those those big upper respiratory symptoms so cough and runny nose and fever are the ones that often times can you can have in any sort of viral infection. And so those are the ones that get kind of mistaken for a cold versus the flu.Deborah Howell
OK. And I've also heard, you know, over the years that, you know, flu brings the fever and the cold. Yeah, not so much.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
The fever is going to tend to be more intense and lasts longer in the flu, but you can have a fever with either one.Deborah Howell
OK. And when should you take your child to an urgent care or emergency room?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
You know, that really depends on the individual child and the age of the child. Less than three months of age, if they have any sort of fever or signs of respiratory distress, they definitely should be seen right away. Older children, it really depends more on if they have any sort of chronic diseases or, you know, if they're at baseline, pretty, pretty healthy in that case, you know, if it's a normal child and they're at baseline, pretty healthy, then I would, you know, be more if they have a high fever or they're showing signs of dehydration. And the one thing what are is in mind thatDeborah Howell
I was just going to interrupt you briefly to tell everybody that's listening the signs of dehydration?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Yeah. So one thing is just knowing how much they've they've been drinking. So if they are drinking significantly less than normal, that that can be an indication. They may be dehydrated for a little bit younger kids. We look at, you know, how many wet diapers they've had a day and those have dramatically decreased or for an older child. You can look at, you know, how much they're urinating every day. Signs of, you know, more significant dehydration, their mucous membranes meaning like their lips or nose, that those general areas will be dry, maybe even become chapped. Some children may cry without tears. These are all be signs and things to look for that your child may become becoming dehydrated.Deborah Howell
Thank you so much.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Yeah, but the one thing I want to mention is if all that being said, if you do think that your child has flu or you know that he or she has been exposed to someone with flu, one thing to keep in mind when deciding to bring them into an urgent care or an emergency room is that the difference, one difference between flu and common cold is that flu actually had a medication you can get for it called Tamiflu. But that needs to be started typically within 48 hours of the onset of symptomsDeborah Howell
Okay within 48 hours. So you might be running around to a few stores this year trying to find a little bit of Tamiflu. So be good to have some.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
A lot of places are out.Deborah Howell
Yeah. And how long do flu symptoms last, doctor?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Typically about seven to ten days, you know, most viral upper respiratory infections are more than three to five day range. But flu tends to, as I said, tends to be a little bit more severe and lasts a little bit longer.Deborah Howell
OK. And are there some specific ways to help boost your child's immune system that you recommend to your patients?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
There certainly are a lot of ways that the people talk about, like vitamin C or airborne or different, different supplements, really, when it comes down to it that none of those have been shown to do much good unless you happen to be deficient in some vitamin or nutrient at baseline. What I always recommend is just good nutrition, good hydration and plenty of rest.Deborah Howell
And exercise too, right.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
And exercise, of course.Deborah Howell
Is there anything else you want parents listening right now to know about this particular flu season or the flu in general?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Yeah. You know, we've talked about the kind of specific criteria when you should come in to be seen and what you should be looking out for. But you know, in real life, none of these things fit into a perfect box or cookie-cutter pattern. So if parents are at all concerned, you know, that's that's why you establish a good relationship with your primary care doctor so that you can call in with concerns and express those and talk about it and figure out when would I need to, you know, come in what would be the best time for my particular child? And then the only other thing that I would emphasize is that, you know this this year, people have been waiting to hear how bad this season is to see if they need to get immunized or not. And you know, you may have heard that actually this year, it's been so bad that some some children have have died , and the most of the people who have died have been the ones who have not been immunized. So there's there's really no reason to wait. You should if you haven't gotten your flu shot, you should get it right away.Deborah Howell
I was going to say it's not too late for this season, correct?Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Absolutely not. And prevention is always better than treatment.Deborah Howell
I remember I was about eight and I had the flu and I was, you know, on the couch with an afghan (blanket). My teeth were chattering. And, you know, my mom brought me some ginger ale and and I said, Mom, when am I going to die? And she said, “What do you mean?” She goes, and I said, “Well, George Washington died of the flu, so I assume I'm going to die, too.” And she said, “no, not everyone dies from the flu.” But it might be good to have a little talk with your kids about this because, you know, they read things in the history books and you know, and the flu used to be quite often fatal. And that's just not the case anymore with our vaccinations.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Absolutely. It's, you know, it can be a scary illness. So the more knowledge you have about it, the better.Deborah Howell
Talk to your kids, establish a great relationship with your pediatrician. And if you want to find a MemorialCare Medical Group pediatrician, you can visit www.MemorialCare.org/medicalgroup. Thank you so much, Dr. Morley, for being on the show today. We really enjoyed your perspective.Eric Morley, MD, MPH
Oh, thanks for having me.Deborah Howell
Be well and for more info or to listen to a podcast of this show, just go to MemorialCare.org. That's all for this time. I'm Deborah Howell. Have yourself a terrific day.
This flu season continues to make news headlines as the flu appears to be more widespread and aggressive than usual, especially among babies and children. MemorialCare Medical Group Pediatrician, Dr. Eric Morley, shares important information about the flu and what parents can do protect their children.
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