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Children's Emergency Physicians Encourage Parents to Prepare for Flu Season Now

BIRMINGHAM – In Alabama, most school systems begin the new school year while it’s still late summer, but back-to-school time means flu season is just around the corner.

Emergency physicians at Children’s of Alabama are encouraging parents and other caregivers be sure to get their flu shots and make sure children in their care are vaccinated, too.

“There are several things parents can teach their children to reduce the likelihood of contracting the flu or a cold that has flu-related symptoms,” said Dr. Kathy Monroe, a professor of pediatrics at UAB and the Medical Director of the Children’s of Alabama Emergency Department. “Children should get a flu shot. Secondly, during flu season, if your child exhibits flu-like symptoms – like fever, muscle aches or a cough – the absolute best thing you can do for a child who is mildly ill is keep them home to rest and also so they don’t spread germs to classmates and teachers. We recommend contacting your child’s regular physician by telephone. Often, visiting a doctor’s office is not necessary.”

Children’s treated 73,403 patients in its ED last year, an average of more than 200 a day. Physicians at Children’s remind parents that with that kind of volume visiting an emergency room can be counter-productive if you have a non-urgent concern like symptoms of the flu. Visiting an ED with the flu also exposes children with underlying conditions who can’t fight infection as well as others.

Monroe said children who are laboring to breath, have concerns for dehydration such as a low urine output or have a pre-existing medical condition – like asthma, sickle cell disease, diabetes, cancer – should be treated in an emergency room immediately.

“Certainly we advise visiting an emergency room if your child is experiencing respiratory distress, has dehydration or has an illness when the child also has an underlying medical condition,” she said, adding that both Children’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children be in the care of a primary care physician (pediatrician or family practice physician).