Babies with the flu also may suddenly seem fussy or just "not look right."
The flu can turn into a serious illness like pneumonia.
That can be dangerous for babies and kids or adults with health problems. If you think
your child has the flu, see a doctor, nurse, or other medical expert right away.
What Causes the Flu?
The flu gets its name from the virus that causes it — the influenza virus.
It spreads when people cough or sneeze out droplets that are infected with the virus
and other people breathe them in. The droplets also can land on things like doorknobs
or shopping carts, infecting people who touch these things.
Is the Flu Contagious?
Yes, the flu is very contagious. People can spread it from a day before they feel
sick until their symptoms are gone. This is about 1 week for adults, but it can be
longer for young kids.
The flu usually happens in small outbreaks. When the illness spreads quickly and
infects lots of people in an area at the same time it's called an epidemic.
This tends to happen every few years. If an epidemic spreads worldwide, it's called
Who Gets the Flu?
Anyone can get the flu, but kids tend to get it more often than adults. Some very
young children or kids with health problems can get very sick and need special care.
How Is the Flu Diagnosed?
Health care providers can often tell by looking if a child has the flu. Because
other infections can look like the flu, they might send a mucus sample to a lab for
testing. They get the sample by wiping a long cotton swab inside the child's nose
How Is the Flu Treated?
Most kids with flu get better at home. Make sure your child:
wears layers that are easy to remove. Kids might feel cold one minute and hot
Children with the flu should stay home from school and childcare until they feel
better. They should only go back when they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours
without using a fever-reducing medicine. Some kids need to stay home longer. Ask the
doctor what's best for your child.
Some children are more likely to have problems when they get the flu, including:
kids up to the age of 5, especially babies
kids and teens whose immune
system is weakened from medicines or illnesses (like HIV
kids and teens with chronic (long-term) medical conditions, such as asthma
kids or teens who take aspirin regularly
They might need medical care, sometimes in the hospital.
Doctors may prescribe antiviral medicine for a very ill child or kids who might
have problems. The medicine can shorten the flu by 1–2 days. It only works if
children start taking it within 48 hours of the start of the flu. If a doctor prescribes
antiviral medicine for your child, ask about any possible side effects.
How Long Does the Flu Last?
Fever and other flu symptoms often go away after 5 days or so, but kids may still
have a cough or feel weak. Children's symptoms are usually all gone in a week or two.
Can the Flu Be Prevented?
There's no guaranteed way to avoid the flu. But getting the flu
vaccine every year can help. Everyone 6 months of age and older should
get it each year.
Most doctor's offices, clinics, and drugstores offer the flu vaccine from September
to mid-November. It's best to get it before the end of October. But even if you don't
get it at the start of the flu season, it's not
too late to get one while the flu is still going around.
If your child is sick, has a fever, or is wheezing, talk to your doctor to see
if you need to reschedule the flu vaccine.
The flu can cause big problems for adults as well as kids. Anyone who has the flu
should stay away from people who might get very sick, such as:
women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, just had a baby, or are breastfeeding
babies and young children
kids and adults with serious health problems
people in hospitals or long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
seniors 65 years and older
What Else Can Help?
Taking these steps can make spreading the flu less likely:
Wash your hands well
and often with soap, especially after using the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing,
and before eating or preparing food
Never pick up used tissues.
Don't share cups and eating utensils.
Keep kids home if they have the flu — and stay home if you're sick.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then put it
in the trash.
If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper arm, not your hands.