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Health Information For Parents
The flu is an infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs). It’s caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person. Flu season in the United States is from October to May.
When people have the flu, they usually feel worse than they do with a cold. Most people start to feel sick about 2 days after they come in contact with the flu virus. They might have:
Babies with the flu also may suddenly seem fussy or just “not look right.”
The flu can turn into a serious illness like pneumonia. That can be dangerous for babies and kids or adults with health problems. If you think your child has the flu, see a doctor, nurse, or other medical expert right away.
The flu gets its name from the virus that causes it — the influenza virus. It spreads when people cough or sneeze out droplets that are infected with the virus and other people breathe them in. The droplets also can land on things like doorknobs or shopping carts, infecting people who touch these things.
Yes, the flu is very contagious. People can spread it from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms are gone. This is about 1 week for adults, but it can be longer for young kids.
The flu usually happens in small outbreaks. When the illness spreads quickly and infects lots of people in an area at the same time it’s called an epidemic. This tends to happen every few years. If an epidemic spreads worldwide, it’s called a pandemic.
Anyone can get the flu, but kids tend to get it more often than adults. Some very young children or kids with health problems can get very sick and need special care.
Health care providers can often tell by looking if a child has the flu. Because other infections can look like the flu, they might send a mucus sample to a lab for testing. They get the sample by wiping a long cotton swab inside the child’s nose or throat.
Most kids with flu get better at home. Make sure your child:
Children with the flu should stay home from school and childcare until they feel better. They should only go back when they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medicine. Some kids need to stay home longer. Ask the doctor what’s best for your child.
Some children are more likely to have problems when they get the flu, including:
They might need medical care, sometimes in the hospital.
Doctors may prescribe antiviral medicine for a very ill child or kids who might have problems. The medicine can shorten the flu by 1–2 days. It only works if children start taking it within 48 hours of the start of the flu. If a doctor prescribes antiviral medicine for your child, ask about any possible side effects.
Fever and other flu symptoms often go away after 5 days or so, but kids may still have a cough or feel weak. Children’s symptoms are usually all gone in a week or two.
There’s no guaranteed way to avoid the flu. But getting the flu vaccine every year can help. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get it each year.
Most doctor’s offices, clinics, and drugstores offer the flu vaccine from September to mid-November. It’s best to get it before the end of October. But even if you don’t get it at the start of the flu season, it’s not too late to get one while the flu is still going around.
If your child is sick, has a fever, or is wheezing, talk to your doctor to see if you need to reschedule the flu vaccine.
The flu can cause big problems for adults as well as kids. Anyone who has the flu should stay away from people who might get very sick, such as:
Taking these steps can make spreading the flu less likely:
Get the basics on how flu spreads and how to protect yourself.
The flu can make you sick for a week or more. Find out how to get protected from the influenza virus.
Learn all about protecting your family from the flu and what to do if your child gets flu-like symptoms.
Telltale signs of the flu include a sore throat, body aches and fever. Here’s what to do if your child has the flu.
Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don’t wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.
Stay home or go to school? That’s what you are probably wondering if you have the flu. Find out more.
Every year from October to May, millions of people across the United States come down with the flu. Get the facts on the flu – including how to avoid it.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Get tips for fending off the flu in this article for teens.
The flu is a virus that can make you sick for a week or longer. Find out more in this article for kids.
Just about everybody needs a flu shot. Find out more in this article for kids.
Find out when and why kids need to get the flu vaccine.
Here are some quick tips for helping your child get over the flu.
The flu vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November. Even though it’s best to get it then, being vaccinated later can still help protect against the flu.
The flu usually makes kids feel worse than if they have a cold. But it’s not always easy to tell the difference. Here are tips on what to look for â and what to do.
Sometimes kids lose fluids and salts through fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Here are some tips on preventing or treating dehydration.
The flu vaccine is a good idea for all families. It does not cause the flu, and it helps keep kids and parents from getting sick.
Doctors recommend that all teens get vaccinated against the flu. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be a shot. Here are the facts on flu vaccines.
Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of the flu.
Antibiotics are powerful medicines that can help kids feel better — but only when they have certain illnesses. Find out if an antibiotic is right for your child.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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