Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness cause by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times complications from flu can lead to hospital stays and death. Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old, and children and adolescents with certain chronic health conditions are at increased risk of developing serious flu complications. The best way to reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications is to get a flu vaccine each year.
A child of any age is at higher risk of flu complications if they have any of the following chronic health conditions:
Signs and symptoms of flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, feeling feverish/chills, fatigue (tiredness), and sometimes children may also have vomiting and diarrhea. It is important to note that some children who are sick with flu may not have a fever.
Most children who get flu will recover in a few days to less than 2 weeks, but some people will develop complications (health problems such as pneumonia) as a result of flu, some of which can be life-threatening.
Pneumonia, sinusitis, and ear infections are 3 examples of complications from flu. Flu also can make certain chronic health conditions worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu.
The most important thing is for your child to get a flu vaccine every year. Children younger than 6 months old are at higher risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them and all household members aged 6 months and older should be vaccinated.
In addition to getting a flu vaccine, you and your child should take everyday actions to help prevent the spread of germs.
These everyday actions can help reduce your chances of getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others if you are sick. However, a yearly flu vaccine is the best way to prevent flu illness.
If your child is experiencing any of the following emergency warning signs, you should take them to the emergency room:
*Many authorities use either 100 (37.8 degrees Celsius) or 100.4 F (38.0 degrees Celsius) as a cut-off for fever, but this number can vary depending on factors such as the method of measurement and the age of the person.
Yes. Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record and a number of them are approved for use in children older than 6 months, including healthy children and children with certain chronic health conditions. Because children with chronic health conditions are at increased risk of getting flu related complications, it is especially important that they get vaccinated.
CDC recommends that all children 6 months and older, especially those with chronic health conditions, get a seasonal flu vaccine every year.
In general, children with chronic medical conditions should get a flu shot rather than a nasal spray flu vaccine. Your health care provider can help choose the best vaccine option. Additionally, children younger than 9 years old may need 2 doses of the vaccine if they have not received two doses of the vaccine in the past. Talk with your health care provider to discuss how many doses are recommended for your child.
Find out your child’s school or childcare providers plan for flu season. Let them know your child is at higher risk for flu-related problems.