How can you tell if your child has the flu? When should you go to the ER?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s flu activity is high and continues to increase across the country as we near the end of the year.

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According to the agency, there have been an estimated 8.7 million cases of flu in the United States with 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths.

Fourteen of those deaths from influenza were pediatric deaths.

How does the flu affect children and is it different from adults? Here’s what we know about flu in children.

What is the flu?

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious viral infection. It affects the air passages of the lungs. It is a common illness that has a “season” where it is more prevalent.

In the United States, flu activity peaks between December and February.

The two types of virus that cause the most illness are influenza types A and B.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of the flu come on quickly, and in children, the symptoms include:

The flu is a respiratory disease, but it can affect the whole body. A child can become suddenly ill with any or all of these symptoms, according to Johns Hopkins University:

· Fever, that can go as high as 103°F to 105°F.

· Body aches.

· Headache.

· Sore throat.

· Cough that gets progressively worse.

· Fatigue.

· Runny or stuffy nose.

In some cases, a child may also have symptoms such as:

· Nausea.

· Vomiting.

· Diarrhea.

How long do children suffer from the flu?

Most children are ill with the flu for less than a week. However, if a child has a serious case of the flu, the virus could lead to pneumonia, an infection of the lungs.

How do you know your child has the flu and not a cold?

The symptoms of cold and flu are different, and the illness comes on in different ways. Here’s what to know:

For a cold vs. for the flu:

  • Low or no fever vs. high fever
  • Sometimes a headache vs. headache in most cases
  • Stuffy, runny nose vs. clear nose, or stuffy nose in some cases
  • Sneezing vs. sneezing in some cases
  • Mild, hacking cough vs. cough, often turning severe
  • Mild body aches vs. severe body aches
  • Mild tiredness  vs. extreme tiredness that can last weeks
  • Sore throat vs. sore throat in some cases

What treatment is given to a child with the flu?

It depends on the seriousness of the illness. Antiviral medication is sometimes prescribed, and parents are generally told to give a child acetaminophen as a pain reliever.

Antibiotics are not prescribed for the flu since it is a virus. If the flu develops into a bacterial infection, then antibiotics are used.

When should you take a child with the flu to the doctor or the hospital?

According to Healthy Children, if you see these symptoms in your child, you should seek emergency help:

· Trouble breathing or unusually rapid breathing.

· Bluish lips or face.

· Ribs look like they pull in with each breath.

· Chest pain.

· Muscle pain so severe that your child refuses to walk.

· Dehydration (no urine for eight hours, dry mouth, and no tears when crying).

· While awake, your child is not alert or interacting with you.

· Seizures.

· Fever above 104°F.

· Any fever in children younger than 12 weeks.

· Fever or cough that seems to improve but then returns or worsens.

· Worsening chronic medical conditions, such as asthma.