- Influenza (Flu) is a viral infection of the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi
- You think your child has influenza because other family members have it
- You think your child has regular (seasonal) influenza and it's prevalent in the community
- Main symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat, bad cough and fever. If there is no fever, your child probably doesn't have flu.
- More muscle pain, headache, fever, and chills than with usual colds
- If there is NO fever, the child probably doesn't have flu. More likely he has a cold.
- Influenza viruses that change yearly
Diagnosis: How to Know Your Child Has Influenza
If influenza is widespread in your community and your child has flu symptoms with fever, then he or she probably has flu. You don't need to get any special tests. You should call your doctor if your child is HIGH-RISK for complications of the flu (see the following list). These are the children who may need prescription anti-viral drugs. For LOW-RISK children, you don't need to call or see your child's doctor, unless your child develops a possible complication of the flu. (see the "When to Call Your Doctor" section).
HIGH-RISK Children for Complications From Influenza
Children are considered HIGH-RISK for complications if they have any of the following conditions:
- Lung disease (such as asthma)
- Heart disease (such as a congenital heart disease)
- Cancer or weak immune system conditions
- Neuromuscular disease (such as muscular dystrophy)
- Diabetes, sickle cell disease, kidney disease OR liver disease
- Diseases requiring long-term aspirin therapy
- Healthy children under 2 years old are also considered HIGH-RISK (CDC: September 2009)
- Note: All other children are referred to as LOW-RISK
Prescription Antiviral Drugs for Influenza
- Antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu) must be started within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms to have an impact.
- The AAP recommends they be used for any patient with severe symptoms AND for most HIGH-RISK children (see that list).
- The AAP doesn't recommend antiviral drugs for LOW-RISK children with mild flu symptoms.
- Their benefits are limited: they usually reduce the time your child is sick by 1 to 1 1/2 days. They reduce the symptoms, but do not eliminate them.
- Side effects: Vomiting in 10% of children.
Return to School
- Your child can return to child care or school after the fever is gone for 24 hours and your child feels well enough to participate in normal activities.
- Spread is rapid because the incubation period is only 2 days (range: 1 to 4 days) and the virus is very contagious.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011 3:39:15 PM
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.