What is influenza “the flu”?

Flu season is upon us here in the United States, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. I’m very passionate about flu education and information, and that’s why I’m breaking down everything you need to know about the flu, the influenza virus, and the flu vaccines into three different posts over the next few weeks.

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Here, I want to focus on what the “flu” actually is, because I think the word “flu” is very misused in the United States. I often hear or overhear people saying something along the lines of, “I was throwing up all night, I must have the flu.” While the flu can cause vomiting and diarrhea, more often in children than adults, the true flu is actually a respiratory illness coupled with muscle aches, extreme tiredness, and sometimes a fever. Adults with bouts of vomiting and not the above mentioned common flu symptoms often have some other sort of stomach virus, possibly food poisoning, or something else.

The flu is also often confused with the common cold. Because both the cold and the flu are respiratory illnesses, sometimes it’s hard to tell what you have come down with. But, the flu tends to be a bit worse than a normal cold due to a fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and a more intense dry cough. The typical cold usually results in a runny/stuffy nose and does not usually lead to serious complications, whereas the flu can lead to complications, life-threatening conditions, and even death.

Read moreWhat is influenza “the flu”?

What to do if you think you or your child has had a severe reaction to a vaccine

One of the most serious problems that can occur with getting any vaccine is a severe allergic reaction. If this were to happen, it would most likely happen within a few minutes to a couple of hours after getting a vaccine. Even though this is rare, it’s important to seek medical help if this occurs.

  • Signs of a severe allergic reaction:
    • Hives
    • Swelling of the face and/or throat
    • Difficulty breathing, wheezing and/or hoarseness
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Dizziness
    • Weakness
    • Paleness

Other indicators that your child may have had a serious reaction to a vaccine:

  • Very high fever
  • Behavioral changes

Read moreWhat to do if you think you or your child has had a severe reaction to a vaccine

Varicella (chickenpox) Vaccine

Goldie Locks has Chicken Pox

I don’t know about you, but I REMEMBER getting the chickenpox as a young child. It was itchy and awful. And oatmeal baths! Oh, the oatmeal baths!!

Because this is most often a children’s disease, I thought it would be appropriate to litter this post with the some of the cute photos from one of my daughter’s favorite children’s books: Goldie Locks has Chicken Pox by Erin Dealey, illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama. 

Although the illustrator makes chicken pox look cute, it’s anything but. Thankfully, due to the vaccine our kids don’t ever need to experience the chickenpox…

Chickenpox is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is part of the herpesvirus family. The same virus that causes chickenpox can cause shingles later in life. The virus is called varicella when it causes chickenpox, then the virus hides in your body and it gets called zoster when it flares back up and causes shingles. There is also a vaccine for shingles called the zoster vaccine, which you may get should you choose to at around the age of 65 (but, that’s for another post).

Read moreVaricella (chickenpox) Vaccine

Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine (MMR)

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 9.48.28 PMThe measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe. The end. Phew, that was easy!

Of course I’m only kidding. That’s definitely not the end, not even close. There’s so much information out there about the MMR vaccine—good and bad, informative, and plenty of opinions—that it’s hard to know what to believe. I’m not going to give you my opinion on the vaccine (although I’m sure you could guess), that’s for another post. These are the facts.

Read moreMeasles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine (MMR)