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Flu Symptoms in Children

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Posted by on Friday, March 18, 2011, 3:29
This news item was posted in Children, F, Nose category and has 1 Comment so far.

The symptoms of flu in children are remarkably similar to those of a cold and other viral illnesses. So it’s not always easy to tell whether your child has the flu, which is caused by a specific bug, the influenza virus.

Flu Symptoms in Children
Flu Symptoms in Children

If it’s flu season (approximately October to February) and your child has the following symptoms, there’s a good chance that it’s the flu:

* The sudden onset of fever, typically 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius) or higher
* Headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and chills, followed by respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose and a dry cough.

If congestion or coughing shows up much before the fever, it’s more likely your child has a cold.

Your child may also be irritable and have a poor appetite, a sore throat, and swollen glands. The flu can also bring on abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Children under 2 years old who become infected are more likely to wind up in the hospital with a bout of the flu than older children.
How do kids get the flu?

The flu viruses (influenza A and influenza B) are potent pathogens in close quarters, spreading easily through the air.

If your child is near someone with the flu who is coughing or sneezing, he may breathe in infected droplets through his mouth or nose. A person with the flu is contagious for about a day before symptoms begin and for about five days after.

Because the flu proliferates when people are in close contact, it travels easily through schools, daycare centers, playgroups, and families. Usually the unsuspecting victim will get sick one to four days after exposure.

But because the severity of the flu differs from person to person, people can be infected with the virus and not know it. If they develop only mild symptoms they may think it’s a cold and unknowingly pass the flu virus to others.
My child has the flu. What can I do to make him feel better?

The best treatment for the flu is rest and plenty of fluids. Try offering frozen fruit bars to encourage him to get extra liquids — along with soup or broth, which may ease his congestion as well.

For muscle aches and fever, give your child a pain reliever such as children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Never give aspirin to a child unless your doctor has recommended it. It can trigger Reye’s syndrome, a rare but life-threatening condition.)

If your child is at high risk for complications because of an underlying medical condition, his doctor may be able to prescribe an antiviral medication that can help ease the symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu by a day or two. The trick is to make the diagnosis as soon as possible, because the medication must be given in the first 48 hours. Once that 48-hour window closes, the antiviral medications are no longer effective.

Resist the urge to pressure your doctor for antibiotics, which kill only bacteria. A virus – not bacteria -“ causes the flu, so antibiotics won’t do a thing. Antibiotics may be in order, however, if your child develops a secondary bacterial infection such as pneumonia, an ear infection, or bronchitis as a result of having the flu.

Your child should start feeling better in three to five days. You’ll notice his fever break first, and then his appetite should return. But this is just an average – some kids (and adults) have a cough and associated body aches that hang on for two weeks or more.
When should I call my child’s doctor?

Call the doctor if your child:

* Has a fever over 103 degrees F (39.4 degrees C) or any fever that lasts longer than three days.
* Develops a cough that is not improving after a week.
* Develops signs of the flu and is HIV-positive or has a chronic illness (such as cancer, sickle-cell anemia, diabetes, or heart, lung, or kidney disease).
* Develops signs of the flu and has rheumatoid arthritis or Kawasaki disease, both of which are treated with long-term aspirin therapy. (In such cases, the benefits of aspirin outweigh the tiny risk of Reye’s syndrome.)
* Has an earache.
* Is wheezing or seems to be working harder than usual to breathe.
* Becomes sick again soon after bouncing back from the flu. (He may have a secondary infection that needs to be treated.)
* Shows any signs of dehydration.

What can I do to prevent my child from getting the flu again?

Preventive measures include the flu vaccine for everyone in your family age 6 months and older, and good hygiene.
Flu shots and nasal spray 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. The nasal spray vaccine is an option starting at age 2.

Getting the vaccine is even more important if your child is in a high-risk group — if he has diabetes, a suppressed immune system, severe anemia, or a chronic heart, lung (including asthma), or kidney disease.

Unfortunately, the flu vaccine isn’t foolproof. Its effectiveness depends on the health of your child (it’s more effective in healthy kids) and how well the vaccine is matched to the virus that’s currently circulating. Some years, those who develop the vaccine get a closer match than in other years.

If your toddler does get the flu after being vaccinated, there’s a good chance he’ll get a milder case. Of course, the shot won’t protect him from other viruses that may seem like the flu.


You can help keep your child healthy by making sure he eats well, gets enough rest and exercise, and practices good hygiene:

Make sure he washes his hands with soap and warm water before eating and after going to the bathroom (for younger kids, you’ll have to help with this). Have everyone in the family wash their hands often, too, to prevent spreading germs at home.

As best you can, keep your toddler away from people who may be sick — although since people are contagious before they show symptoms, it’s not always easy to tell.

No matter how conscientious you are, your child may pick up the virus. The good news is, if he does get the flu, he’s less likely to get it again this year because he’ll be immune to the strain that’s going around.

Next year another strain of the flu virus will appear on the scene, for which this year’s illness won’t provide any immunity. That’s why a flu shot is recommended every year.

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