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Ear, Nose and Throat 

Otolaryngologists, also called ear, nose and throat or ENT specialists, treat diseases and injuries affecting the ear, nose and throat, as well as the head and neck.  

Whether you're battling a balance disorder, having trouble hearing or simply sick of seasonal allergies, the ENT specialists on the medical staff at Baylor can help you or your family with treatment for many conditions.  

Call 1.800.4BAYLOR for a referral to a physician on the medical staff at one of our hospitals.

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Influenza (Flu) in ChildrenInfluenza

Influenza (Flu) in Children

What is the flu?

Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious viral infection. It is one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season.

The flu is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system. This includes the nose, bronchial tubes, and lungs. The flu has these common symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Muscle aches

  • Sore throat

  • Cough

The flu can make people of any age ill. Most people, including children, are ill with influenza for less than a week. But some children have a much more serious illness and may need to be treated in the hospital. The flu may also lead to pneumonia or death.

What are the different types of flu?

Flu viruses are divided into 3 types: A, B, and C.

  • Influenza types A and B cause epidemics of respiratory illness that happen almost every winter. They often lead to more people needing a hospital stay, and more people dying from the flu. Public health officials focus on stopping the spread of types A and B. One of the reasons the flu remains a problem is because the viruses change their structure often. This means that people are exposed to new types of the virus each year.

  • Influenza type C usually causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no symptoms at all. It does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact that influenza types A and B do.

Flu viruses continually change (mutate). This helps the virus to evade a child's immune system. Children (and adults) can get the flu no matter what their age. The process works like this:

  1. A child infected with a flu virus develops antibodies against that virus.

  2. The virus changes.

  3. The "older" antibodies no longer recognize the "newer" virus when the next flu season comes around.

  4. The child becomes infected again.

The older antibodies can give some protection against getting the flu again. Vaccines given each year to protect against the flu contain the influenza virus strain from each type that is expected to cause the flu that year.

What causes the flu?

A flu virus is generally passed from person to person through the air. This means your child can get the flu by coming in contact with an infected person who sneezes or coughs. The virus can also live for a short time on things like doorknobs, pens or pencils, keyboards, telephone receivers, and eating or drinking utensils. So your child can get the flu virus by touching something that has been handled by someone infected with the virus and then touching his or her own mouth, nose, or eyes.

People are generally the most contagious with the flu 24 hours before they start having symptoms and during the time they have the most symptoms. That's why it is hard to prevent the spread of the flu, especially among children, because they do not always know they are sick while they are still spreading the disease. The risk of infecting others usually stops around the seventh day of the infection.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

The flu is called a respiratory disease, but the whole body seems to suffer when a child has it. Children usually become suddenly ill with any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Fever, which may be as high as 103°F (39.4°C) to 105°F (40.5°C)

  • Muscle and joint aches and pains

  • Not feeling well "all over"

  • Headache

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Worsening cough

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

Most children recover from the flu within a week. But they still feel exhausted for as long as 3 to 4 weeks.

The symptoms of the flu may look like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is a cold different from the flu?

A cold and the flu are two different illnesses. A cold is relatively harmless and usually clears up by itself after a period of time. Sometimes a cold may lead to another infection, such as an ear infection. But the flu can lead to complications, such as pneumonia and even death. What may seem like a cold may be the flu. Be aware of these differences:

Cold symptoms

Flu symptoms

Low or no fever

High fever

Sometimes a headache

Headache (very common)

Stuffy, runny nose

Clear nose or stuffy nose

Sneezing

Sometimes sneezing

Mild, hacking cough

Cough, often becoming severe

Slight aches and pains

Often severe aches and pains

Mild fatigue

Several weeks of fatigue

Sore throat

Sometimes a sore throat

Normal energy level or may feel sluggish

Extreme exhaustion

How can the flu be prevented?

A new flu vaccine is available each year, before the start of flu season. All children, beginning at 6 months, should get the flu vaccine each year, as soon as it is available in their community. 

The flu vaccine is available as a shot and a nasal spray. The nasal spray is not recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season. The CDC says this is because the nasal spray did not seem to protect against the flu over the last several flu seasons. In the past, it was meant for children ages 2 and older.

Your child's provider may prescribe antiviral medicines to help prevent your child from getting severe long-lasting symptoms or from getting the flu. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about antiviral medicines if your child was around someone with the flu.

You can also help prevent your child from getting the flu by following these tips:

  • When possible, have your child stay away from or limit contact with infected people.

  • Have your child wash his or her hands often. Frequent handwashing may reduce, but not eliminate, the risk for infection.

  • Have your child cover his or her nose and mouth with a tissue or inside elbow when coughing or sneezing to limit spread of the virus.

How well the vaccine works varies from year to year. It depends on how close the flu virus strains in the vaccine match the strain or strains that actually circulate during flu season. Vaccine strains must be chosen 9 to 10 months before the influenza season. Sometimes changes occur in the circulating strains of viruses between the time vaccine strains are chosen and the next flu season. These changes may make it less likely for your child's antibodies to stop the newly mutated virus. This decreases the chance that the vaccine will work.

What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?

The most serious side effect of the flu vaccine is an allergic reaction in children who have a severe allergy to eggs. Vaccines available for those with an egg allergy.

Some children who get the vaccine have soreness at the vaccine site. Some children have mild side effects, such as a headache or a low-grade fever for about a day after vaccine. Because these mild side effects are like some influenza symptoms, some people believe influenza vaccine causes the flu. But this is not true, according to the CDC.

What is currently recommended for children?

The vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older. Children who are allergic to eggs may get a different flu vaccine designed for people with an egg allergy. It is especially important that children in these groups get a flu shot: 

  • Children 6 months to 19 years old

  • Children of any who have a chronic health condition

  • Children who have a long-term heart or lung condition

  • Children who have:

    • Endocrine disorders such as diabetes

    • Kidney or liver disorders

    • Weakened immune system from diseases such as HIV or AIDS or taking long-term steroids

    • Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease

  • Children and teenagers ages 6 months to 19 years who are taking aspirin as long-term therapy

  • Children of people in high-risk groups

How is the flu treated?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

The goal of treatment is to help prevent or ease symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • Medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve aches and fever. Don't give aspirin to children with a fever without talking to your child's healthcare provider first. The medicine of choice for children is acetaminophen.

  • Bed rest and more fluids

  • Medicine for your child's cough. These may be prescribed by your child's provider after a thorough checkup.

  • Antiviral medicines. These may help to shorten how long your child is ill and ease symptoms. But these medicines don't cure the flu. To work, they must be started within 2 days after symptoms begin. Your child's provider will let you know how long your child should take this medicine. The provider may also prescribe these medicines to help prevent the flu if your child is around someone who has it.

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Influenza (Flu)Influenza (Gripa)

Influenza (Flu)

What is influenza (flu)?

Influenza (flu) is an easily spread respiratory tract infection. It is caused by a virus. About 5% to 20% of people in the U.S. get the flu each year. The flu usually starts abruptly, with fever, muscle aches, sore throat, and a cough.

The flu can make people of any age sick. Although most people are sick with the flu for only a few days, some have a much more serious illness. They may need to go to the hospital. The flu can also lead to pneumonia and death.

The flu viruses continually change. Currently, three different influenza viruses circulate worldwide. Vaccines given each year to protect against the flu virus strain expected to cause the illness that year.

What causes the flu?

The flu is caused by a virus. Viruses are generally passed from person to person through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

But the virus can also live for a short time on objects like doorknobs, pens, pencils, keyboards, phones, and cups or eating utensils. So you can also get the flu by touching something that has been recently handled by someone infected with the virus and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Each person may experience symptoms differently. The flu is called a respiratory disease, but it can affect your entire body. People usually become very sick with several, or all, of the following symptoms:

  • Cough, often becoming severe
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Fatigue for several weeks
  • Headache
  • High fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Severe aches and pains
  • Sneezing at times
  • Sometimes a sore throat
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Fever and body aches usually last for 3 to 5 days, but cough and fatigue may last for 2 weeks or more.

The symptoms of the flu may look like other medical problems. Always talk your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is the flu diagnosed?

The flu is diagnosed based on your symptoms. Lab tests may be used to confirm the diagnosis, if necessary.

How is the flu treated?

Specific treatment for the flu will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent and type of flu, and severity of symptoms
  • How long you’ve had symptoms
  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for the flu is to help prevent or decrease the severity of symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • Antiviral medicines. They can reduce how long you’ll have the flu, but they can’t cure it. They have to be started within the first 2 days of the illness. These medicines do have some side effects, such as nervousness, lightheadedness, or nausea. These medicines are prescribed by a doctor.
  • Medicines. There are medicines for congestion and nasal discharge. You can also take medicine to relieve aches and fever. Do not give aspirin to children with fever. The drug of choice for children is acetaminophen.
  • Rest. Bed rest and increased intake of fluids.

Talk with your healthcare provider for more information.

What are the complications of the flu?

The most common complication of the flu is pneumonia. It can also cause serious muscle and central nervous system complications. Of those who get the flu, between 3,000 and 49,000 will die from it or from complications. Most of these deaths happen in people ages 65 and older.

Can the flu be prevented?

A new flu vaccine is made each fall. Everyone ages 6 months and older should get a flu shot each year. It is usually recommended for specific groups of people, as well as for anyone who wants to avoid having the flu.

The flu shot is safe. The CDC and the FDA closely watch vaccine safety. Hundreds of millions of flu vaccines have been safely given across the country for decades.

The flu shot can’t give you the flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are:

  • Achiness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Soreness where the shot was given

If you have them at all, these side effects are usually mild and last a short time.

The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from one person to another. It can depend on factors such as age and overall health.

The following may also be helpful for preventing the flu:

  • When possible, avoid or limit contact with sick people.
  • Wash your hands frequently to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing to limit spread of the virus.

The flu causes complications that may develop into a more serious disease or become dangerous to some people. This includes older adults and those with chronic medical problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider to find out if you should receive the flu shot.

Although the flu shot is safe, some people should NOT be vaccinated. These include:

  • People who are allergic to eggs
  • People who have had a severe reaction in the past after getting the flu shot
  • People who are sick with a fever (these people should get vaccinated after they have recovered)
  • Babies who are age 6 months old or younger
  • People who have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe paralyzing illness, after getting the flu shot

The CDC recommends getting the flu shot every year, as soon as it becomes available in your community. Flu season can begin as early as October and most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February, but flu seasons are unpredictable. The flu shot takes 1 to 2 weeks to become effective.

The CDC recommends that travelers have the flu vaccine at least 2 weeks before planned travel to allow time to develop immunity. Talk with your healthcare provider for more information.

 

When should I call my healthcare provider?

For most people, the flu can be treated at home without treatment from your healthcare provider. However, if your condition or situation makes you more susceptible to complications from the flu, tell your healthcare provider when you suspect you have the flu. If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your healthcare provider know.

Key points about the flu

  • The flu is an easily spread viral respiratory tract infection.
  • The flu is caused by viruses that are generally passed from person to person through the air.
  • The flu is treated with bedrest, increased fluid intake, and medicines to treat discomfort and fever
  • Antiviral medicines taken within the first 2 days of illness can reduce the length and severity of the disease but does not cure it.
  • Getting the flu shot every year is the best prevention.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your healthcare provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.

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