We are sure we don’t have to tell you that influenza season is here. You undoubtedly have already had a family member or friend who has been sick with the flu over the last 6 weeks. News reports are coming out it seems weekly, if not daily, describing the severity of this flu season. In light of this likely being the worst flu season since 2009, we want you to reassure you that we are here to address concerns about your children’s health. There are regional and national shortages of both the rapid flu tests as well as oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®). However, that doesn’t mean we cannot diagnose or manage the symptoms should your child develop the flu.
As of Tuesday, February 7, we used our last rapid flu tests at each office. We are unsure at this time when we will be getting more. Rest assured that we can, however, diagnose influenza without the test. In some cases your provider may recommend that we send a test to Labcorp to confirm the diagnosis, but this will not be necessary in all cases. Depending on insurance, this test can be quite expensive.
With regard to oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®) please keep in mind the following:
- We strongly recommend its use for children diagnosed with influenza who are under 5 years old, who have a history of asthma/wheezing, or who have other chronic medical conditions.
- The benefits of oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®) are to shorten the course of illness (decreases length of illness by ½ to 1 day on average) and potentially decrease the severity of symptoms or risk for complications.
- Oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®) can, however, cause side effects. The most common of these are upset stomach and vomiting. Therefore, the risks/benefits should be discussed with your child’s provider.
- We may call in oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®) for patients without seeing them if they have flu symptoms (fever, chills, runny nose, cough, sore throat), have had known close contacts with someone with influenza, and have no signs of dehydration or breathing difficulty.
- If you are concerned your child has the flu, and want to give them oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®), please call your pharmacy before your appointment to see if they have it in stock. If they do not, they can likely tell you which sister pharmacies do.
- Prophylactic (preventive) oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®) may be recommended for siblings on a case by case basis.
We know the reports of the flu vaccine’s effectiveness this year have been concerningly low. Despite the vaccine only being 10-25% effective at preventing a patient from getting the flu this season, we still recommend it. Patients who have had the vaccine tend to have a shorter and/or milder course and have lower risk of developing complications that would require hospitalization. This is because there is some cross protection between the vaccine and the circulating strains, even if they are not a ‘perfect match’.
If your child has not had the vaccine, it is not too late. Flu season, unfortunately, will last another 6-8 weeks. Besides handwashing, the flu vaccine is still our single best weapon against this nasty virus. Call our call center at (804) 282-4205 to schedule an appointment to get your child’s flu shot. Please remember that it takes approximately 2 weeks for the vaccine to be effective, so it is possible to contract the flu virus before the vaccine is working.
If you’re interested in more general info about influenza, you can visit our influenza page.