Influenza, or the flu, is defined as a contagious respiratory illness caused by a viral infection that affects the lungs, mouth and throat. The stomach flu, on the other hand is the result of viruses in the gastrointestinal tract.

Coughing, sneezing, or touching your mouth, eyes or nose can spread germs. The flu virus is contagious 24 hours before symptoms appear and 5 to 7 days after a person gets sick.

The number one way to prevent getting the flu is to ensure everyone in your family (over 6 months old) receives the flu shot.

Other ways to prevent the flu:

  1. Practice good hand hygiene with soap and water or hand sanitizer
  2. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  4. Stay home from school and work when you are sick
  5. Disinfect surfaces

**It is a myth that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine.  The injectable flu vaccine is an inactivated (killed) virus, so a child CANNOT catch the flu from a flu shot.

At first, the flu can be easily mistaken for a common coldIf your symptoms come on very quickly, it's more likely to be the flu.  

Flu symptoms in children include:

  • Fever,  feverish chills or sweats

  • Congestion

  • Stuffy or runny nose

  • Sore throat

  • Coughing

  • Headaches

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Vomiting and diarrhea are more common in children than adults

When to go to the hospital for flu

The flu can usually be treated at home with rest and lots of liquids. However, complications can occur in children and adults.

If you are concerned about your child's symptoms, you should call your primary care doctor first.

If your child has the following symptoms, promptly take them to the ER:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Unresponsive or not interacting

  • Fever with rash

  • Excessive or severe vomiting

  • Won't drink liquids

  • Blue or gray skin coloring

  • Appears dehydrated with dry lips, sunken eyes or decreased urination

  • Flu-like symptoms that have improved, but return with a fever and worse cough

Like with older children, it is often better for parents to take their newborn to a pediatrician rather than the ER, unless they are exhibiting any of the following behaviors:

  • Unable to eat

  • Trouble breathing

  • No tears when crying

  • Irritable and does not want to be held

  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

Learn more about when to call the doctor and when to take your child to the hospital for the flu.


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