Flu season: What you need know about vaccination and antiviral treatment

Flu season is quickly approaching. Now is the time to start vaccinating both you and your children against the flu itself. Although we often think of influenza as a “really bad cold” it can make you severely ill and can even be life threatening especially in the young and old. Therefore, step one is to always vaccinate.

However, nothing is 100 percent. Even if you are vaccinated, or for those who choose not to vaccinate, there is still a chance you can be infected by the influenza virus.  So, in this unfortunate circumstance, what can we do?  The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released its annual recommendations, which can shed some light on the issue.

In this document, there is advice about antiviral treatment when flu is diagnosed or suspected. The AAP says: Pediatricians should attempt to promptly identify children suspected of having influenza infection for timely initiation of antiviral treatment, when indicated, to reduce morbidity and mortality. Best results are seen when treated within 48 hours of symptom onset.

So what does this exactly mean? Here the AAP states that if you suspect that your child has the flu, time is of the essence for treatment. You should contact your primary care provider immediately so that, if appropriate, antiviral treatments could be initiated within the first 48 hours of symptoms. This time period shows the best results for helping your child get better sooner and safer.

In short, although antivirals are great medications, they are not a substitute for vaccinations. To give your children the best chances to avoid the flu this winter, please vaccinate. However, if you suspect the flu or witness a combination of the flu-like symptoms below:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Extreme fatigue

Contact your primary care provider so that antiviral treatments can be considered immediately to give them the best chance of working.  Usually, if the flu is suspected your provider can do rapid testing for influenza in the office or if there is enough suspicion for influenza, antiviral medications are indicated. Also, if you are vaccinated and still catch the flu, antivirals are still recommended and a viable option.