Flu Warning Signs
This is the worst flu season in over a decade. I have many friends who had the flu go through their entire house.
It’s stressful enough to worry about the flu and our typical children and ourselves. Add in disabilities, medically fragile, medically complex and it’s a wonder how some of us sleep at night. (Spoiler alert: I don’t.) The flu and non-verbal children and kids are something I wish I didn’t have to think about.
Several years ago, I partnered with Aria Health Care to bring my readers information about the flu. At the time, we were promoting Flu Vaccination Week, which happens in December. The flu is running rampant in many schools across the country. Here are some helpful tips to know when you should worry if it is the flu, as well as signs that your non-verbal child might be sick.
Which disabled children are most at risk if they get the flu?
From the CDC: Children of any age with neurologic conditions are more likely than other children to become very sick if they get the flu. Flu complications may vary and for some children, can include pneumonia and even death. Neurologic conditions can include:
- Disorders of the brain and spinal cord
- Cerebral palsy
- Epilepsy (seizure disorders)
- Intellectual disability
- Moderate to severe developmental delay
- Muscular dystrophy
- Spinal cord injury
Some children with neurologic conditions may have trouble with muscle function, lung function or difficulty coughing, swallowing, or clearing fluids from their airways. These are problems that can make flu symptoms worse.
Knowledge is power. Read through these lists of tips and symptoms, so that you are not needlessly worrying about your disabled child when they are sick.
Flu Prevention Tips for Kids
Most doctors agree the best thing you can do is get the flu vaccine each year.
- washing your hands often
- covering your mouth when coughing/sneezing
- eating healthy foods and
- getting plenty of rest
When to Worry about the Flu
To help you navigate cold and flu season and keep your families healthy, Lisa Tucciarone, one of Aria Health FastCare’s nurse practitioners has developed a set of tips to help determine if children are experiencing the flu or a common cold:
·Identify the length of onset: Determining how long you have felt ill will help parents to determine their illness. Flu symptoms tend to present themselves very quickly, whereas when a child is experiencing a cold the symptoms tend to develop gradually.
·Know the symptoms: If parents can correctly identify their child’s symptoms, they may be able to determine what illness they are experiencing. The flu comes in forms of muscle aches, fatigue, fever, and even vomiting. The symptoms of the flu tend to be more intense than a cold. A cold tends to include a runny nose, dry cough, sinus pressure, and congestion.
·Watch what they eat: Monitoring your child’s eating habits can be a way to gauge what illness they are experiencing. When a child has the flu it is likely they will have decreased appetite; which is uncommon during the common cold.
·What to do: It’s important to make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids. Preventing dehydration is critical. Small, frequent sips of fluid during the day or snacking on popsicles or ice chips will help keep your child hydrated.
How to tell if a non-verbal child is sick.
The old adage says that 90% or more of all communication is nonverbal. When you have a non-verbal child, it certainly doesn’t feel that way, does it? Day-to-day, we actually do fine. But, when it comes to illness and injury, I turn into a full-fledged worrywart. Not only is he unable to say the simple words “I don’t feel good” he is unable to process and plan out the answers to the questions, “Point to where it hurts.”
Thankfully he isn’t sick often. But since we did lose my baby niece to a rare form of meningitis a few years ago, I’m still kind of freaked out when he is sick. Because of course one of the main warning signs of meningitis is a headache. That is something my son would never be able to communicate with me.
First and foremost, moms, go with your gut! Too many times we are asked to ignore our instincts. Do not ignore your instincts when it comes to your child. My sister-in-law went to her doctor three.separate.times with her sick baby, because she just knew something was wrong. Three times she was sent home and told to just “love on her” and she’d get better. Despite my sister-in-law’s best efforts, that baby still died because doctors did not listen to her mom instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, keep pushing and advocating.
Signs of Flu Dehydration
You can check for dehydration in children in many ways.
- frequency of urination
- the color of urination (darker=less desirable, means fewer fluids)
- stronger smell
- the soft spot on top of the head of babies will be sunken in
- skin turgor test-in nursing homes the nurses often will grasp the skin on the back of the hand or on the forehead and pull up, if it stays up=dehydrated, it should return to normal status quickly if not dehydrated, can be done on abdomen too
- tacky mouth
- lack of tears
Signs of illness in nonverbal children:
- fever-there are many thermometers on the market right now that are very easy to use, some with just a touch behind the ear.
- pulse and respiration rates
- change in appetite
- extreme vomiting
- snot or mucus that is green and really icky
- raspy or labored breathing, including high-pitched wheezing when breathing
- changes in skin or eye color
- the child seems confused or has trouble walking, as if drunk
- posturing as if head or neck hurts, tilting head to one side for periods of time
- extreme drowsiness, has trouble waking
- watery stool, particularly with blood in it
- more fussy and irritable
- extreme changes in behavior, task refusal, and non-compliance
Refrain from giving any “natural” or homeopathic anything unless you’ve talked with your doctor(s). Despite being over the counter products, some of these items can cause a bad interaction with the medications your child is already taking. Or, some medicines, for reasons not entirely known, have the opposite effect on a child. An example of this is that some parents have tried giving Benadryl to have an autistic child go to sleep, only to have it backfire and cause the child to be twice as hyper and restless. Benadryl also lowers seizure thresholds. There are just too many things that could happen. Just hydrate the child best you can until you can see a doctor.
A special thanks to Aria Health Care for contributing to this non-sponsored post. Flu shots are available at both of Aria Health’s FastCare locations in Northeast Philadelphia or Levittown, PA with no wait and no appointment necessary. Aria introduced its FastCare clinics in 2013 to offer members of the community convenient, walk-in access to non-emergent healthcare services without the wait. I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on the internet. Always consult your doctor if you have questions.