Influenza is one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season. Reaching its peak in January and February, this respiratory viral infection is in season from October to mid-May.
Influenza is most contagious during the first 24 to 36 hours of contracting the virus, but symptoms indicating that a child has the flu usually do not appear for one to seven days.
What is Influenza?
Influenza is not the same as the stomach "flu" virus which causes diarrhea and vomiting. The influenza virus is a highly contagious virus that attacks the respiratory system including your nose, throat and lungs. It can affect 5–20% of the United States population annually, with more than 200,000 individuals hospitalized.
Most Common Flu Symptoms
Flu symptoms will vary from child to child, but the most common signs of the flu are:
- High fever
- Congestion/runny nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Lack of energy
Treating Flu Symptoms
The treatment your child should receive depends on his or her main symptoms. Boys Town Pediatrics suggests these home remedies:
Fever or body aches: Give acetaminophen every six hours or ibuprofen every eight hours. Do not give aspirin to a child or teenager with the flu, as it may lead to Reye's syndrome, a disease that affects the brain and liver.
Cough: Give children over 1 year of age 1/2 teaspoon of honey, or corn syrup if honey is not available, and children over 4 years of age cough drops.
Sore throat: Give warm chicken broth to children over 1 and hard candy to children over 4.
Stuffy nose: Use warm water or saline nose drops. For infants and young children, suction at least four times a day.
The best defense against influenza is to take the annual
Children who attend daycare or school are particularly susceptible to the flu. Influenza is most contagious during the first 24 to 36 hours of contracting the virus, but symptoms indicating that a child has the flu usually do not appear for one to seven days.
Tips to Prevent Influenza (Flu) in Children
When to Call Your Doctor
If complications occur, such as sinus pain or pressure, earache or a fever that lasts longer than three days, call your child's physician during office hours. If your child develops a very high fever, has a seizure, is having difficulty breathing or starts to act very sick, call your physician immediately.
Emily K. Hill Bowman, M.D.
Boys Town Internal Medicine
Dr. Hill Bowman explains what the flu is, the symptoms, and how to treat it.
If you suspect you have influenza, symptoms are slightly different than a viral illness. So it’s a very sudden onset. Fevers, chills, body aches, headache and cough, so symptoms start suddenly. So if you feel like you got hit by a truck with these symptoms, that’s the time to call your doctor’s office.
The flu lasts usually a little bit longer than other viral illnesses, so maybe up to a week or a little bit longer. Typically we want to see you earlier on if we suspect influenza because we use the medication to treat influenza called Tamiflu. If you’ve had symptoms within the last two days, so a lot of times if you wait, then we cannot use that medication for treatment.
There’s a lot of things that you can do to try to prevent the spread of influenza and other viral illnesses. One of the best things that you can do is wash your hands especially after you come in contact with somebody who has symptoms of the flu or virus. Other things that you can do is if you are sick or if you know someone who is sick, you should stay home from work and not spread the virus. Ways that you can spread the virus, it’s through your secretions, so through sneezing, runny nose, and cough and so it is always important to cover your nose when you sneeze and when you cough.
Also something that is very important is to get the flu shot every year.
Some adults can get sicker with the flu compared to kids but how I look at it is if you have a lot of other medical conditions, if you have issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease, sometimes that can have the flu affect you to a more of an extent. For patients over 65 we actually give them a higher dose of the flu vaccine because that’s been provided to give more benefit.