Does Your Child Have the Flu?

By: Tina Tan, M.D., Guest Blogger

This flu season is turning into one of the worst in years. Nationwide, several people have died from the flu, and many more have been hospitalized. Influenza affects people of all ages, especially infants and children.

The flu virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets produced when someone with the infection sniffles, coughs, or sneezes. That is why it is important to talk about “cough etiquette” with your children. Teach them how to cough into their sleeves, so they don’t spread infected droplets.

Flu symptoms are different in adults than in kids. An adult will have a sudden onset of fever, cough, sore throat, headache, nasal congestion, body aches, and fatigue. Children will have a fever and may complain of a headache, but the cough, sore throat, and body aches will not be as severe as what adults typically experience. Your child may also experience vomiting and diarrhea, which are not usually seen in adults.

Treating the Flu

  • Give your children Ibuprofen or Tylenol to bring down the fever, and make sure they stay hydrated. I do not recommend giving children cold medicine. A virus causes the flu, so antibiotics are of no use.
  • The flu usually lasts three to seven days, but the cough and tiredness can last for weeks. If your child has an underlying medical condition, visit your pediatrician; your child may need to be prescribed an antiviral drug. People with underlying medical conditions and children under the age of two are at higher risk for complications from influenza.
  • The flu is very contagious and spreads rapidly. If your child has the flu, keep him or her out of school or daycare. One or two sick children in an enclosed environment can spread the disease rapidly.

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend that all persons six months of age and older receive an annual influenza vaccination. This can help protect you and your children from getting the flu.

[Related Article: 3 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Health Through Immunization Planning]


Dr. Tina Tan is Professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, a Pediatric Infectious Diseases Attending, Co-Director of the Pediatric Travel Medicine Clinic, and Director of the International Adoptee Clinic at Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. She is board certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. She also serves on a number of national and international infectious disease-related editorial boards and committees. ___________________________________________________________________________ Photo Credit: Steven Depolo via Flick'r.

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