ATLANTA – During this stressful and deadly flu season, it’s common for parents of young children to panic, but that’s the last thing you should do.

If your child becomes sick or begins to show symptoms of an illness, you’ll want to follow a few steps.

“Families are understandably scared, especially families with young children,” Dr. Dan Salinas, Chief Medical Officer at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said.

Before you visit a doctor, check to see if your child’s symptoms match what is posted on CHOA’s website. If your child’s symptoms match that of the flu, don’t go to the emergency room but your pediatrician or primary physician.

“[Parents] should first seek help through their pediatrician or primary physician. If they’re unable to be seen there, they should consider receiving care at one of Children’s urgent care centers,” Dr. Salinas said. “If they’re really worried about their child’s symptoms and if they’re severe, they should treat that as an emergency.”

The most important thing to do if you think your child has the flu is to contact your pediatrician. They know your child’s medical history the best and can tell without a test if they have the flu or not.

“In most cases, their child will not be tested for the flu," Dr. Salinas said. "In most cases, the diagnosis can be made through clinical findings.”

Salinas said the flu test is generally reserved for children where the flu could cause severe complications, like with asthma. Most diagnoses are done through clinical findings.

In CHOA urgent care centers right now, rapid flu tests aren’t even available.

“What we want to do is make sure parents and families understand that a test is not needed for a physician to tell their child has the flu,” Dr. Salinas said.

When it comes to anti-viral medication, like Tamiful, Dr. Salinas said treatment is not indicated but can have side effects.

“Usually the anti-viral medications are reserved for children that have other conditions such as asthma, immune system disease, anything that would make them more susceptible to severe complications to influenza,” he said.

Dr. Salinas stressed that the flu can be prevented through vaccinations.

“Especially families with children it’s never too late to get the flu vaccines,” Dr. Salinas said. “The vaccine is the number one line of defense.”

Aside from the vaccine, Salinas said parents should continue to wash their and their children’s hands, avoid really crowded spaces, eat well, and disinfect surfaces like phones, grocery carts, and pens.

If you have a fever, stay at home. Don’t attempt to leave if you could be contagious.

“We are seeing the highest volume in our emergency departments that we’ve ever seen,” Salinas said.

Salinas said the volumes are related to multiple respiratory infections, not just the flu.

“Influenza is a predominate infection we are seeing, however, there are other respiratory infections,” he said.

Since the beginning of the year, CHOA has seen an increase in flu cases within its emergency departments. Dr. Salinas said cases increased from 30 to 38 percent from the beginning to the end of January for positive Influenza A cases and an increase from seven to 10 percent in Influenza B cases.

While cases have increased, Dr. Salinas said most are not severe.

Unfortunately, we are still in the middle of flu season but if you continue to follow doctors’ orders and get your vaccine, you should be alright.

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