HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — Another young child has died from complications from the flu.
Sable Gibson, a fourth-grader in Cincinnati, died Tuesday from complications from strep throat and the flu.
And flu has been a big issue for children in our area recently. Several schools systems recently in eastern Kentucky closed because of sickness spreading.
It is now raising serious concerns among parents. And many are asking the question, “When should I take my child to the hospital if they have the flu or do I even take them to the hospital?”
So we asked that question to Dr. Thomas Rushton, an infectious diseases specialist with St. Mary’s Medical Center.
“If they have shortness of breath, they’re just not getting better,” Rushton said. “Usually when you have a fever, the fever goes away. If the fever isn’t going away, there’s more shortness of breath, the child looks like they are in distress and doesn’t look right, they need to be re-evaluated.”
But Dr. Rushton says sometimes these symptoms don’t present themselves quickly and that every child may react differently to the virus.
“It’s not always going to be telling signs,” he said. “That’s the problem. I had a friend of mine call me and say his son, who is like 11, just got infected and diagnosed with the flu. He was taking Tamiflu and he had a fever. I said, ‘You know what, you’re just going to stay with him tonight and watch him and see what happens.’ By the next morning, he was right as rain. But if that’s not the case, you have to go back to the emergency room.”
Dr. Rushton added that sometimes reaction to the flu can be much different if the child has an underlying health condition.
“Underlying health problems are going to make Influenza a much more dangerous infection for these children,” he said. “But we don’t want to underestimate the fact that what is really happening here is the body’s response to that infection. It can be overwhelming. It’s basically hand-to-hand combat where the body is actually fighting itself. Unfortunately sometimes it can’t be taken care of. But if it’s not taken care of, you are looking at the grim possibility of death.”
However, Dr. Rushton says it all boils down to a parents’ instincts.
“You know what your child looks like when they are better,” Rushton said. “If they just don’t seem to be getting better, then they’ve got to be evaluated. Now you have to decide, is this just another trip to the pediatrician’s office or is this a trip to the ER? That all depends on what kind of shape the child is in.”
However, he says the severity of symptoms and the reaction to the virus can all depend on things like the gender and age of the child and if the child has other health complications.
Dr. Rushton also suggested for parents who have a child with the flu and are debating on when to send them back to school to consider three things: make sure their fever is gone for at least 24 hours (a fever is considered to be 100.5 or higher, according to Rushton), look at how much energy the child has, and if they are still coughing and sneezing.