Pediatric flu deaths on the rise nationwide

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Several months into this year's flu season and the tide of patients with the flu has yet to ebb.

Pediatrician Dr. Michelle Flechas says this flu season has been especially hard on kids.  She is seeing about 10 cases a day.

The latest data from the CDC shows 26 children have died nationwide from flu.  Those at most risk are kids under the age of five and those with health problems like asthma or heart disease. However, many of the more serious cases have occurred with healthy children. 

"It's scary and when parents see that it really scares them, it scares us as pediatricians because you'll have an otherwise healthy child that all of the sudden succumbs," said Flechas.

Typical flu symptoms include coughing, congestion, high fever and muscle aches.  Flechas says there's no way to predict how a child will respond to the flu, but there are red flags parents can look out for including dehydration, fatigue, or an extremely high or low temperature.  She says the biggest risk is a child developing pneumonia.

"If they just look at you and they scare you and you look at them.  I know that's kind of a vague answer, but parents intrinsically know when something is bad," said Flechas.

The pediatrician says it's important to go to a doctor immediately if your child starts showing flu symptoms, or if symptoms aren't improving.  It's also important to get vaccinated.  Even though the vaccine is not completely effective, doctors say some protection is better than none.  Finally, the easiest and most effective way to protect you and your family is to wash hands frequently. 

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