Learn About The Symptoms Here
"Children generally catch the flu at school or in child care and then take the virus home to their parents and siblings," says Dr Daniel New, infection disease specialist at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. "The most common way to spread the virus is through contact with germs after sneezing or coughing."
Most children completely recover from the flu in one to two weeks, but without proper care, children can develop more serious complications such as sinusitis, bronchitis or pneumonia.
Cold or flu?
How do you know if your child has brought home a cold or influenza? Although the symptoms are similar, children with the flu are usually sicker and typically get sicker over a very short period of time. If you are still unable to distinguish between a cold and the flu, there are laboratory tests available at your pediatrician's office or the nearest outpatient center.
The first symptoms of flu usually include a red, scratchy throat, hacking cough, watery eyes, runny nose, and a high-grade fever. "All these symptoms just get increasingly worse; the child feels miserable and begins to develop aches and pains in their muscles and joints -- called myositis," says Dr New. "Often these aches and pains can be very intense."
Dr New suggests some things that can be done at home to help ease your child's flu symptoms: have them drink lots of fluids, get plenty of sleep and wash hands regularly. If your child is achy, give him or her a non-aspirin product such as Tylenol or Motrin. Never give your child aspirin to relieve his or her pain or fever because aspirin has been connected with a potentially fatal childhood disease called Rye's syndrome.
Basically, a young child with a strong, healthy immune system will have no problem recovering from the flu. However, there are times when parents should become concerned about their child's illness. "If the child develops respiratory problems -- if they are having trouble breathing or if a secondary infection develops, then medical attention should be sought," says Dr New. "Often the flu can lead to secondary bacterial infections, such as ear infections, sinusitis or even pneumonia. Parents can recognize these secondary infections if the child seems to be recovering from the flu, yet they begin to complain of ear pain or their cough becomes worse instead of better. Antibiotics are helpful in treating these secondary infections even though they will not kill the flu virus."
The flu season hits hardest between December and March and influenza can be prevented by an annual flu shot. Studies have shown the flu vaccine to be 70-90 percent effective in preventing illness, although receiving the vaccine does not guarantee a flu-free winter but it will reduce your chances of becoming infected.