Influenza In Children

What is influenza?

Influenza (the flu) is an infection caused by the influenza virus. The flu is easily spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or has close contact with others. Your child may be able to spread the flu to others for 1 week or longer after signs or symptoms appear.

What are the signs and symptoms of influenza?

Severe symptoms are more likely in children younger than 5. They are also more likely in children who have heart or lung disease, or a weak immune system. Signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Fever and chills

  • Headaches, body aches, earaches, and muscle or joint pain

  • Dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, and sore throat

  • Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

  • Tiredness

  • Fast breathing, trouble breathing, or chest pain

How is influenza diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver will examine your child. Tell him if your child has health problems such as epilepsy or asthma. Tell him if your child has been around sick people or traveled recently. A sample of fluid may be collected from your child's nose or throat to be tested for the influenza virus.

How is influenza treated?

Most healthy children get better within a week. Medicines used to treat the flu include the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask your child's caregiver how much and how often to give this medicine to your child. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

  • NSAIDs help decrease pain and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. Always ask your caregiver if NSAIDs are safe for your child. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.

  • Antivirals are given to fight an infection caused by a virus.

How can I manage my child's symptoms?

  • Have your child rest. Make sure your child gets enough rest and sleep. Rest and sleep may help him get better faster.

  • Give your child more liquids as directed. Ask your child's caregiver how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him. This can help prevent dehydration.

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier. This can be used in your child's bedroom to increase air moisture. It may make it easier for your child to breathe.

How can I help prevent the spread of influenza?

  • Have your child wash his hands often. Have him use soap and water or gel hand cleanser when there is no soap and water available. Teach him not to touch his eyes, nose, or mouth unless he has washed his hands first.

  • Teach your child to cover his mouth when he sneezes or coughs. Have him cough into a tissue or his shirtsleeve so he does not spread germs.

  • Clean shared items. Clean toys, table surfaces, doorknobs, and light switches with a germ-killing cleaner. Do not share towels, silverware, or dishes with people who are sick. Wash bed sheets, towels, silverware, and dishes with soap and water.

  • Wear a face mask. Wear a mask to cover your mouth and nose when you are near your sick child. This can decrease your risk for the flu. Ask caregivers where to buy single-use masks.

  • Keep your child home if he is sick. Keep your child away from others as much as possible while he recovers.

  • Have your child get an influenza vaccine to help prevent the flu. Everyone older than age 6 months should get a yearly influenza vaccine. Get the vaccine as soon as it is available, usually in October or November each year.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

  • Your child's symptoms get worse.

  • Your child has new symptoms, such as muscle pain or weakness.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child has a fever with a rash.

  • Your child has fast breathing, trouble breathing, or chest pain.

  • Your child's skin is blue or gray.

  • Your child's symptoms got better, but then came back with a fever or a worse cough.

  • Your child will not drink liquids, is not urinating, or has no tears when he cries.

  • Your child does not want to be held and does not respond to you, or he does not wake up.

  • Your child has a seizure.

  • Your child coughs or vomits blood.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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