Although spring is here, we are still in the throes of the winter cold and flu epidemic and have been seeing many ill people through August and September. We have been seeing about 60 people a day over the past six weeks with colds and flu and it is still going on!
There is usually another late peak to the flu season in November so it is not too late to have a flu vaccination now if you have escaped so far. Doctors recommend that your best defense against flu is immunisation. The vaccination is no longer subsidised but many medical practices still have them available at a small fee.Sore throats are a common presentation and most sore throats are viral and do not require antibiotics. The difficulty is knowing whether or not the cause is bacterial (strep throat) and needs antibiotics to prevent rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic fever is a serious complication resulting from strep infection and can cause long-term heart damage.
Maori and Pacific Island children between the ages of three and 18 years are most at risk of strep throat and should see a doctor within a day or two of developing a sore throat.
Other factors which help distinguish between viral and strep throats are a fever over 38°C, red swollen tonsils or back of throat, large tender neck glands and also tummy pain and headache. If your child has a runny nose and a cough they are less likely to have a strep throat and it is more likely to be just a viral infection. However if the sore throat persists for longer than three days it is important to see your doctor who will take a throat swab and check whether you need antibiotics or not.The other common condition that causes sore throat, headache, fever and extreme tiredness is glandular fever or “kissing disease” which is common in teenagers because it is highly infectious and spreads rapidly amongst young people in schools. It is also caused by a virus and should not be treated with antibiotics, as Amoxil can cause a rash in glandular fever. It is diagnosed by a throat swab and blood test. Anyone who is unwell with cold and flu symptoms should stay home, drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest to give the body the best chance of fighting the infection. Stay away from babies, older people and pregnant women as well as anyone who has other chronic diseases that may affect their immune system. This group is more at risk of developing serious life threatening complications from viral infections. This includes anyone who is taking immunosuppressive drugs or steroids or having chemotherapy for cancer. This group is more at risk of developing serious life threatening complications from viral infections.
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