The forehead that burns, the thermometer that even exceeds 39 degrees in an amen. Headache, bone pain. Exhaustion. Here is the flu again, this time arriving earlier than expected, after two years in which it had “disappeared” as a reflection of the anti-covid restrictions. The flu is affecting children the most, above all because the little ones, especially from 0 to 2 years of age, have never encountered these viruses. “In the last ten days, the cases of children with the flu that we see in the emergency room have been on the rise and overall there are now a lot of them every day,” he confirms. Henry Vallettahead of the Pediatrics Unit of the “Morgagni-Pierantoni” hospital in Forlì.
Dr Valletta, what triggered this spike?
After a summer that lasted longer than usual, the change of atmospheric season has opened the doors to the viral forms typical of this period. We are certainly facing an anticipation of the circulation of the flu virus which has probably found a child population made particularly susceptible by the protective measures that were adopted during the pandemic and which are no longer there. In this context, the transmission of the infection was particularly rapid and many children fell ill in a rather short period of time.
Most frequent symptoms?
The usual, I would say: even high fever, headache, tiredness, rhinitis, cough, general malaise and muscle pain.
What therapies are indicated?
The common drugs to moderate fever, anti-inflammatories and symptomatic to reduce respiratory discomfort. In the most challenging cases, we can also use an antiviral drug to promote the course of the disease.
What should a parent do in these cases, also to avoid congestion in the emergency room?
With the possible exception of children in the first years of life or those who already have health problems, in others the flu almost always runs spontaneously without major complications. The drugs to be used are those we have already mentioned, they are well known by parents and easily prescribed by family pediatricians. Generally, you don’t need to go to the emergency room and contacting your pediatrician can solve most problems. Naturally, greater attention should be paid to newborns and infants, especially if they appear to be particularly suffering. For them, a brief observation hospitalization is sometimes indicated.
Is mass vaccination needed to halt the advance?
Vaccination is undoubtedly the best weapon we have to prevent the spread of the virus and disease. The advance of the flu season has made this prevention more difficult because it occurred in the midst of the vaccination campaign still underway. Vaccinating children can contribute, on the one hand, to reducing the impact of the disease and the need for hospitalization and, on the other, to protecting the most fragile subjects and limiting the circulation of the virus.
Are there more cases of covid or flu at this stage?
Undoubtedly there are more cases of flu, but Sars-Cov-2 continues to circulate together with other respiratory viruses including adenovirus, rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus which is still somewhat under the radar in Italy, but which we expect to be more present in the near future.