Children & Winter Time Flu

Children and Wintertime Flu

What are influenza symptoms in children and are there ways to prevent it?

Children are two to three times more likely to get the flu than healthy adults. The flu is caused by a virus that infects the lungs and airways and can be spread through direct contact or airborne droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. The key flu symptoms in children are high fever, chills and shakes, extreme fatigue, body aches, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and a dry hacking cough. The number one way to prevent flu is to get an annual flu vaccination. The Center for Disease Control recommends that all people age six months and older receive the flu vaccine each year. Healthy children over the age of two, who don’t wheeze or have a history of asthma, may have the option of getting the nasal spray flu vaccine.

What is the recommended treatment for the flu?

Treatment of the flu includes rest, fluids, and acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever and aches. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which ones are appropriate for children and how much to give. You should see your pediatrician or PCP if you suspect your infant has the flu. Children under the age of two are the most vulnerable to the illness. Also see your doctor if your child’s cough worsens, has trouble breathing or a persistent high fever, or produces bloody mucus which can be signs of pneumonia.

What causes colds in children and what are the symptoms?

Colds are very common in children, especially during the winter months. Colds are caused by a virus that infects the nose, sinuses, throat, and airways. They are often spread through contact with mucus. The symptoms include sneezing, a stuffy and/or runny nose, coughing, scratchy sore throat, and red, watery eyes. Other signs of a cold are chills, aches, a mild fever, and swollen lymph glands. A cold can be tough to spot in infants, so look for changes in breathing, eating, and sleeping patterns.

What is recommended treatment for a cold?

Since colds are viral infections, there is no ideal treatment, but fluids, rest, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease symptoms. You should see your doctor if your child has difficulty breathing or develops a high fever, severe headache, chest pain, or ear pain. Always check with your doctor before giving over-the-counter medications.

How can I prevent my child from catching a cold?

The best way to prevent children from catching a cold is to teach them proper hand washing. The common cold is spread mostly by hand-to-hand contact and is also spread by infected objects that are good cold carriers, including door handles, stair railings, books, pens, video game remotes, and a computer keyboard and mouse. The common cold virus can live on objects for several hours, allowing time for children to touch the objects and then rub their eyes or nose. Encourage your child to avoid people who are obviously sick with a cold.

When should I keep my child home from school?

Children should be kept home from school when ill for their own benefit and to help prevent the spread of viruses. You should inform the school when your child has a contagious illness. Your child should not return to school until fever or vomiting have been resolved for 24 hours. Children who are not feeling well should stay at home, as they will require extra attention from teachers and run the risk of infecting other students. You should contact your pediatrician if you have questions about seasonal illnesses or concerns about your child’s symptoms or if you need guidance in determining whether your child is well enough to return to school.

By Jayne Tarkelson, DO

Dr. Jayne Tarkelson is a pediatrician working in the Whitefield Physicians Office. Appointments can be made by calling 603-788-5095.