Influenza, commonly known as flu, is an infectious disease caused by various influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. Flu in children can be mild to severe, and can lead to death. The pediatric infectious disease specialists with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, can treat flu in children.
What Is Flu (Influenza)?
The flu is a seasonal viral infection that can be spread easily from person to person. It usually is one of the most severe illnesses that circulate each year. The flu affects the upper respiratory system, including the nose, bronchial tubes and lungs. Influenza can cause mild to serious illness. Most children are sick with the flu for a few days, while others may have lengthy and serious illness requiring hospitalization. The infection can lead to pneumonia and even death.
Flu often is associated with the common cold, but flu is caused by a different virus. Generally, the flu is worse than the common cold, as symptoms tend to be more intense.
Flu Symptoms in Children
Flu symptoms usually come on quickly. Children with the flu can experience symptoms such as:
- Body aches and pains
- Feeling tired (fatigue)
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
Flu Vaccine for Kids
A flu vaccine, commonly called a flu shot, is produced each year and released in the United States in September. Getting a flu shot can help prevent a child from getting the flu or having serious complications from the flu. The flu shot is different every year, and a child would need to receive a flu shot yearly. The effectiveness of the vaccine depends on the degree of similarity of the strains of flu included in the vaccine and the strains circulating in a community. Flu shot effectiveness also can vary from one person to another, depending on factors such as age and current health. The flu shot is available to children ages 6 months and older.
The pediatric infectious disease specialists with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases can develop a specific treatment plan for children experiencing the flu. Treatments depend on the child’s age, current health and medical history and the extent of the condition. Flu treatments cannot cure the flu, but they can help prevent or decrease the severity of symptoms. Treatments can include:
- Bed rest
- Medicines to relieve fever, chills and aches and pains; consult a health care provider before giving your child aspirin or Tylenol (acetaminophen)
- Medicines for congestion and runny nose
- Increased fluids
- Medicines for cough as prescribed by a health care provider after examination
- Antiviral medicines