Flu symptoms in kids: what are they and what should I do?

Doctor's advice, Tips for parents / Sanitas Medical Centers

Flu symptoms in kids: what are they and what should I do?

No parent wants to see their child sick, especially when you don’t know how to help them or when you need to take them to the emergency room. But between school, activities, and time with extended family, most kids will catch the flu at some point during the year. So how do you spot the symptoms, and what should you do if you think your child has the flu?

How the flu starts 

The flu is caused by the Influenza-virus and is highly contagious. It spreads by inhaling droplets (tiny particles that are coughed up or sneezed), from an infected person, or by direct contact with mucus or spit from someone that has the flu. 

Young children get sick more easily since they stay together in closed spaces when they are in daycare or at school, share things like pencils, toys, spoons, or other classroom materials, and then put their hands or fingers in their nose or mouth. 

The flu can be spread even before the symptoms start, approximately 1 to 3 days before and up to 5 to 7 days after our kids get sick. That’s why it is difficult to control this type of infection, since, without even knowing it, our children can get the infection just from sharing with a friend who is already infected but asymptomatic. 

What are the flu symptoms?

The flu has similar symptoms to other respiratory infections. To be able to tell the difference between the flu from a common cold, we must pay attention to the following: 

  • Sudden high fevers (Usually above 100.4°F).
  • Chills.
  • Headaches.
  • Body aches.
  • Feeling extremely tired.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Dry, hacking cough.
  • Some kids can also have stomach pain with diarrhea and vomiting.

The first 3 days in which our child has the flu, they tend to feel worse. After the first day, respiratory symptoms are more evident, however, other physical symptoms tend to disappear. 

Who is at high risk of complications? 

People with chronic health conditions (Including children), such as a lung, heart or renal disease, a compromised immune system, cancer, diabetes, and other affections of the central nervous system. In these cases, it is important to be extra careful.
It’s key for them to be vaccinated and always avoid other people that have flu-like symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu shot has been proven to decrease the risk of complications. 

How to recognize complications

Healthy children tend to get better in about a week, with no complications or ongoing consequences.
But in some cases, this infection can cause: 

  • Sinus infection
  • Ear infection
  • Asthma crisis
  • Pneumonia. 

So we need to check the next symptoms: 

  • Difficulty breathing: Normally children breath easily and shallowly, but if they are having trouble breathing, you’ll see how the lower chest and upper tummy goes deeper with each breath, they are breathing more quickly, are making a high-pitched noise (wheezing) or grunt when breathing out.
  • Stop breathing. 
  • Chest pain.
  • Intense muscle ache.

In newborn babies and young infants (<3 months) we need medical attention when temperature is higher than 100.9°F, and in the next cases: 

  • Fever higher than 104°F.
  • Dehydration signs (Crying with no tears, or they don’t pee enough, or don’t pee at all for 8 hours or more, have dry mouths, or the baby's soft spot is sunken). 
  • They throw up everything they drink or eat.
  • They also have associated diarrhea or blood in their stools.
  • Convulsions.
  • Associated ear pain, or the sensation of pressure in the face or head, or if cough and fever don’t get better after a week.

What can I do?

Drinking lots of fluids and resting are the main recommendations for treating this respiratory infection. If your child has fever or ache, you Can use Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen in the dose recommended by the pediatrician, based on the child’s age, weight and assuring that there are no contraindications for the use of this type of medication. 

* Ibuprofen is recommended for kids 6 months or older that are eating well because on an empty stomach it can be harmful. 

Nasal washes and saline solution nasal spray are effective for a stuffy nose. They can save you a visit to the doctor because they will help your child to breathe comfier.
Sometimes we hear that it is necessary for all our children who get the flu to use an antiviral medicine, but this should not be a blanket recommendation for all children. It is very important to make this decision with guidance from your pediatrician.

How can I prevent the flu?

Flu season is reported to last from fall to spring. Is a long period of time in which the probability of getting sick significantly increases.

Avoiding contact with people or children with flu-like symptoms is the first strategy, however, it is not the most effective.

According to the CDC, everybody should get a flu shot every year, which is the best way to reduce infections and prevent the development of serious illness. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Vaccination is especially important for the following groups:

  • Children (including premature babies from 6 months to 5 years of age).
  • Children of any age with chronic health conditions that are at high risk for complications of flu infection.
  • American Indigenous kids and native from Alaska. 
  • All care providers of children with affections with high risk for complications, or younger than 5 years.
  • All healthcare workers.

It is normal that we have some doubts or concerns regarding adverse effects of flu shots. However, evidence suggests that the vaccine against flu viruses has little and in some cases no secondary effects. The most common are low grade fever, redness, pain or swelling at the injection site. If your child needs a flu shot or is feeling under the weather, schedule an appointment with a Sanitas provider today.

•    CDC
•    NHS