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Many Parents Still Confused About the Flu

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Here we go again, but I found myself repeating this over and over again today to many parents who are still confused about the flu this year.

  1. Influenza is not the same thing as “tummy flu” where you have vomiting and diarrhea. Unfortunately the flu vaccine does not prevent gastro intestinal disorders which are usually due to other viruses. People just call this a stomach flu and it is a misnomer. Winter is the time of year for MANY viral infections, so you are being bombarded with exposure to many things, not only influenza. The only good thing (if that adjective is appropriate at all) about the stomach bug is that it doesn’t last as long as influenza and you usually get over it in 12 – 48 hours.
  2. Influenza, which is a viral infection, is just beginning to rear its angry head around the country. This is the typical time of year for this and influenza infections will most likely continue to rise over the next four to six weeks. There are two different types of influenza, A and B. It is important to distinguish which type you have as the antiviral medications that we had previously used to help treat influenza A and to prevent its spread in household contacts is resistant to the oral medication Tamiflu. I have seen more than several parents who have spoken with a physician by phone and started Tamiflu for “presumed influenza”. If you think you have influenza, “the real flu” you need to have a test to see whether it is A or B and then be put on the appropriate antiviral. I would not use Tamiflu alone in Influenza A infections.
  3. Flu vaccine will not “give you the flu” The shot is a killed virus and will not give you flu. You may still get a cold or a stomach flu, but hopefully not the climb in your bed, have chills and fever, cough out your lungs influenza that makes you wish you had gotten the vaccine. The kids I am already seeing look sick, like they have the flu, and if they are old enough already say they don’t want to be this sick again.

I know this is repetitive information but people keep asking. Stay tuned for further developments as we get further into this flu season.

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