The common cold and the flu are common viral infections that affect children. While both their symptoms appear similar, the difference between the flu and a cold is its severity and how fast the symptoms appear. Here is what a parent should know about flu symptoms in kids and when immediate medical attention is needed.
What Is the Flu?
Flu comes from the word influenza which is an infection of the respiratory system instigated by the influenza virus. It is contagious, and when left untreated, it can be deadly. Flu outbreaks usually occur between November and April. Since the virus changes over time, outbreaks of influenza are commonplace.
Different strains of the virus cause influenza. While types A and B result in flu outbreaks yearly, the type C virus causes mild cases of infection. The virus can spread in many ways.
- Direct Contact: This involves direct contact such as holding hands or kissing an individual who has the flu. Germs can spread to the eyes, mouth, nose, and skin, which can quickly spread to another person one is in direct contact with.
- Indirect Contact: If an infected individual touches an item, then that item now has the microbes. Germs that cause influenza can thrive on surfaces for an extended period.
- Droplets in Air: The flu virus can scatter through the air, especially if an infected person sneezes or coughs without covering their mouth.
As mentioned, the symptoms of the flu can be similar to that of a common cold, especially for kids. However, unlike the cold, the symptoms of influenza are more severe. The symptoms include the following.
|Body Ache or Belly Pain||Fever Reaching 104 Degrees Fahrenheit|
|Chills Accompanying the Fever||Headache|
|Dry Cough||Sore Throat|
|Extreme Fatigue or Weakness||Vomiting|
Apart from being mistaken as the common cold, influenza is also mistaken for the stomach flu. It is because of the symptoms such as vomiting and pain in the stomach.
Home treatments can help a child feel better. One needs plenty of rest and water. For fever and body pains, ibuprofen or acetaminophen is advised. Take note, however, to follow the dosage as instructed on the package.
A doctor prescribes antiviral medicines after an evaluation of the child is done. These medications shorten the flu’s duration and decrease the symptoms of the illness. Viral medications must be taken for the number of days prescribed by the physician.
When is Hospitalization Needed?
While home remedies may work on easing the symptoms of the flu, there are times when medical attention is needed. A child may need to be brought to the hospital at once if he or she exhibits the following symptoms.
- Bluish Lips
- Chest Pain
- Cough That Worsens
- Difficulty Breathing
- Dehydration (Dry Mouth, No Tears When Crying, No Urine for Eight Hours)
- Pain in Chest Area When Breathing
- Fever Over 104 Degrees Fahrenheit
- Fever That Worsens
- Severe Pain in Muscles
Take the child to a hospital straightaway for immediate medical attention if the symptoms worsen over time. Also, children who are less than 12 weeks old should be brought to the hospital if he or she exhibits a fever.
Influenza that is left untreated can turn into a complicated infection such as pneumonia, ear infection, or a sinus infection. Let a doctor take a look at the child if the fever extends for more than four days. As mentioned, if the child experiences difficulty in breathing or if the symptoms worsen, then it is best to bring them to the hospital.
Infections of the respiratory system can also elicit an inflammatory response which may cause sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening response of the body to an infection. Other complications that are triggered by influenza include the following illnesses.
- Multi-Organ Failure
Influenza can also worsen chronic medical disorders such as in an asthmatic individual or an individual with chronic heart disease.
Viral infections like influenza can be prevented such as through immunization or proper handwashing and hygiene.
Being afflicted with the flu virus can be prevented with the help of immunization. Vaccine shots are given each year for kids above six months old. Make sure that a child has complete vaccinations against all preventable illnesses, not just for influenza. For influenza caused by types A and B, a nasal spray flu vaccine is administered. It is given to children aged 2 to 17 years old. Also, take note that since the influenza virus changes through the years, it is vital to get a flu shot yearly.
Washing the hands properly is the single most effective way to reduce and prohibit the spread of microbe-causing illnesses. Whenever one sneezes, coughs, or wipes the nose, he or she should wash the hands right after. If one has direct contact with an individual who is sick with the flu or a common cold, then sanitize hands with soap and water. Even when soap and water are unavailable, make use of alcohol, or pre-moistened hand wipes to disinfect one’s hands.
Teach kids to place something over their mouth and nose, such as a handkerchief or tissue when they sneeze or cough. If a handkerchief or tissue is unavailable, then teach them to cough into their elbow or upper sleeve. Also, advice children not to share their cups or utensils with other children. Sanitize toys before giving it to a child.
At a daycare, if a child is suspected of being sick from the flu, then advise the parents of the child to take him or her home for treatment. This will also minimize the transfer of germs to healthy kids. Immunization is not given to children under six months of age. This makes them vulnerable to the disease. Prevent the spread of infection by practicing proper hygiene and handwashing, especially with kids under six months old. If one suspects to be sick from the flu, then get immediate treatment and avoid contact with children under six months old or individuals with weak immunity.