Influenza, commonly referred to as "the flu," is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is common during the winter and early spring. Children are more susceptible to influenza than adults because their immune systems are still developing. It's important to take the proper prevention precautions during flu season, such as vaccinating your child, making sure they wash their hands frequently, and reminding them to cover their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze.
If your child has flu symptoms, parents are urged to call their pediatrician or family physician before coming to the hospital’s emergency room. Your doctor will be able to decide if your child needs to come to the hospital or not. Most children with the flu do not need medical care or testing.
What Are the Symptoms of Influenza?
Flu symptoms can last as little as one day or longer than a week and may include:
- Fever (typically 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius) or higher)
- Body aches
- Chills and fatigue
- Some people may experience diarrhea or vomiting
How Is Influenza Treated?
If your child comes down with the flu, it is important that:
- Children drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Have your child rest as much as possible. No strenuous play or activities.
- Administer acetaminophen (children over 3 months old) or ibuprofen (children over 6 months old) for fever, aches and pains. Do not give your child aspirin.
- Keep your child home from school or daycare for one day after they no longer have a fever without the use of medicines.
- Do not give a multi-symptom cough and cold medicine to children under 4.
After your child's flu is gone, keep them home from school and activities for at least 24 hours.
Flu Treatment for Children with Chronic Health Conditions
If your child has a chronic health condition such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease, or a neurological condition and has flu symptoms, call your child’s doctor right away. Children with chronic health conditions may be at higher risk for serious complications from the flu.
How Can Influenza Be Prevented?
There are several ways to prevent you and your children from contracting the flu. Below are our key recommendations.
- Get the flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all healthy people – children and adults – get an annual flu vaccination starting at age 6 months.
- Wash your hands. Washing your hands and your child’s hands often is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of flu. Wash hands before eating, after coughing and sneezing, and after using the bathroom.
- Cover your cough and sneeze. Cough into your arm and sneeze into your sleeve or tissue. Do not cough or sneeze into your bare hands.
To learn more about the flu and how to keep your family healthy, visit flu.gov.