Influenza can be detected year-round, however, there is an increase during the fall and winter months. The initial spike occurs in October which marks the beginning of what we call “flu season”. This contagious viral infection affects the lungs causing symptoms like high fever, body aches, and coughing to name a few. Children can be at a higher risk depending on their circumstances. Here is what you can expect when it comes to vaccines, diagnosis and treatment.
Who should get the vaccine
The vaccine is recommended for children 6 months and older. There are more critical cases where it’s highly recommended to receive the vaccine. For example:
- Children with a long-term heart or lung condition
- Children with diabetes
- Children with a kidney or liver disorder
- Children with a weakened immune system
- Children with a blood disorder such as sickle cell disease
- A child who has a family member with a chronic health condition
- A child or teen taking aspirin long-term
- A child with parents or caregivers who are at high risk of flu complications
Who should not get the vaccine
- Children younger than 6 months of age
- People with severe, life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in a flu vaccine (other than egg proteins) should not get that vaccine. This might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients.
- People who have had a severe allergic reaction to a dose of influenza vaccine should not get that flu vaccine again and might not be able to receive other influenza vaccines.
If you have had a severe allergic reaction to an influenza vaccine or vaccine ingredient in the past, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider to help determine whether vaccination is appropriate for you.
How is the flu diagnosed?
If you’ve noticed that symptoms are not going away, symptoms are worsening or new symptoms continue to appear- it’s time to contact your healthcare provider. Many times your provider will do an assessment based on the severity of your child’s symptoms and their overall health. If your child is diagnosed with the flu, your provider will develop a treatment based on your child’s specific needs.
Flu symptoms include:
- Fever (not everyone with flu will have a fever) or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea (this is more common in children than adults)
There are some common avenues providers will take when it comes to treating the flu in children. They include:
Acetaminophen. This is to help lessen body aches and fever. Don’t give aspirin to a child with a fever.
Cough medicine. This may be prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider.
Antiviral medicine. This may help to ease symptoms and shorten the length of illness. This medicine does not cure the flu.
Other recommendations for treating the flu include:
- Getting quality rest
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- When dealing with a fever, dress in lightweight clothing/ layers
- A humidifier can help relieve coughs and runny or stuffy noses.
Overall, when it comes to influenza in children, your healthcare provider is the best resource. They will provide vaccines, diagnoses, and a comprehensive treatment plan. And they will answer any questions you may have along the way.
Resources: John Hopkins Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nemours Kids Health, Caring for Kids