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About the Flu

Flu Symptoms, Treatment and Chronic Conditions

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Flu Symptoms

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting. Flu symptoms can last as little as one day or longer than a week. It varies from child to child.

Flu may cause persons with chronic medical conditions to get sicker.

For help deciding if your child has the flu, visit: 

When to Go to the Doctor or Come to the Hospital

Most people with the flu do not require medical care or testing.

If your child has a fever and symptoms such as cough, sore throat, runny nose or a stuffy nose, call their doctor before coming to the hospital. The doctor will decide if your child needs to come to the hospital or not. Also call your child's doctor if your child is under 5 and has flu symptoms.

Call 911 if your child: 

  • Is not waking up or not interacting
  • Has a hard time breathing and has bluish lips

Call your child’s doctor now if your child: 

  • Has fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Shows signs of dehydration (very dry mouth or no urine in more than 8 hours)
  • Is so irritable that they do not want to be held
  • Has flu that has improved, but then returns with fever and worse cough
  • Has a fever with a rash
  • Has a fever that lasts more than 5 days

Children with Chronic Health Conditions and the Flu

Children with chronic health conditions, like heart or lung disease, diabetes, asthma, a neurodevelopmental condition or a neuromuscular disorder can get very sick from the flu. If your child has a chronic health condition and has flu symptoms, call your child's doctor. Your child may need to be tested and treated for the flu. Your child should also get the seasonal flu vaccine.

Treating Your Child’s Flu at Home

  • Make sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids.
  • Have your child rest and do quiet activities.
  • If your child is uncomfortable because of a fever, you can give acetaminophen (Tylenol) if your child is over 3 months old. Or, you can give ibuprofen (Motrin) if your child is over 6 months old. Make sure to give the correct dose, based on your child's weight.
  • Encourage everyone at home to clean their hands often.
  • Never give your child aspirin.
  • Do not give multiple-symptom cough and cold medicine to children under 4.
  • Keep your child home while they are sick and for at least one day after they no longer have a fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines.

Check with your doctor if your child has the flu and close contacts at home are pregnant, are young infants, are elderly, have a suppressed immune system or have a chronic medical condition.

To learn about taking care of your child at home when they are sick, visit: 

Information updated: September 5, 2013

Videos

Flu Vaccinations for Children 3:31Expand
11.24.08

Dr. Danielle Zerr discusses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated flu vaccine recommendations for children, and offers parents advice on ways to protect their children from the flu.

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Proper Hand Hygiene 3:12Expand
5.8.09

See how to teach your child proper hand hygiene behaviors. 

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Healthlink: Flu ProtectionExpand
10.30.10

Seattle Children’s Dr. Danielle Zerr discusses a new study suggesting there's a way moms can lower influenza's toll on babies — by getting the shots before they're even born.

Play Video