Children under the age of 5 are more likely to be hospitalized from influenza complications than those in other age groups. Annual flu vaccines are the best way to protect your child and family from the flu.
Seasonal influenza is a contagious, but preventable, respiratory illness that can be dangerous for young children. Every year, approximately 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of complications from the flu, with some developing serious health problems such as pneumonia or bacterial infections. Although deaths are rare, dozens of children die from flu complications every flu seasons.
Common Cold Versus Flu
While influenza and the common cold are both caused by respiratory viruses, flu symptoms are significantly more severe. Although both illnesses can produce congestion, runny noses and coughs, flu symptoms often also include high fever (over 102°F), body aches, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhoea.
First Aid: Common Cold
Treatment is Not Always Needed
If symptoms aren’t bothering your child, they don’t need medicine or home remedies. Many children with a cough or nasal congestion are happy, play, normally and sleep peacefully. Only treat symptoms if they cause discomfort, interrupt sleep or really bother your child (hacking cough, for example).
You can ease the discomfort using the following:
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed (check correct dosage appropriate for weight with the doctor)
- A cool-mist humidifier or steamy bathroom
- Saline (saltwater) drops for the nostrils
- Gentle suction of nasal mucus using a bulb syringe when necessary
- Offer lots of fluids (breast milk or formula for babies: water and warm fluids for older kids - but no caffeinated beverages).
Seeking Medical Care
Seek medical care if your child:
- Has severe cough spasms or attacks, wheezing or stridor (an almost – musical sound when inhaling)
- Has a cough that last 3 weeks, gets worse, happens the same time every year, or seems caused by something specific (such as pollen, dust, pets etc)
- Has a persistent fever for more than 48 hours
- Is younger than 3 months old and has fever with a cough
- Is breathing fast or working hard to breathe
- Has a blue or dusky colour in the lips, face or tongue during or after coughing
Hand-washing, covering coughs and using alcohol – based gels can help stop the virus from spreading, but the most effective approach for prevention is the flu vaccine.
Unlike some viruses, influenza viruses vary from season to season. While some vaccinations provide life time protection against a particular disease, a new flu vaccine is formulated every year to contain the strains expected to be most common during the upcoming seasons.
Children with the flu should not go back to school until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever. children at higher risk of developing complications (such as those with asthma) and children with severe symptoms (such as trouble breathing or dehydration) should be examined by their paediatricians. They may receive anti – viral medications such as Tamiflu.
When to Vaccinate?
Flu seasons typically runs between late October and March. Children should receive the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to develop flu – fighting antibodies. Your paediatrician can provide your child with vaccination services. Rare side effects include soreness or redness at the injection site, hoarseness, red eyes, cough and mild fever lasting one to two days. the flu vaccine, however, cannot make a child sick with the flu.
Surya group of hospitals are a pioneer in modern healthcare services for women and children since 1985. We offer cutting-edge facilities along with a staff that’s highly acclaimed in their field. To book an appointment with Dr. Sonal Saste and know more about influenza and common cold in children, call our helpline on 022-61538989 and book an appointment.
Dr. Sonal Saste is a MD in paediatrics and also holds DNB (PAED) and DCH. She is the general paediatrician at Surya Hospitals, Mumbai. Her area of expertise includes nutrition, childhood obesity, immunization, and paediatric infectious diseases.