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Influenza, or the flu, is an upper respiratory tract infection caused by the influenza virus. The flu season usually lasts from November through April.
Influenza is not the "stomach flu." Vomiting, nausea and diarrhea are caused by other viruses or bacteria and are rarely related to influenza.
Symptoms of influenza
Symptoms, which may start quickly, include:
- fever, chills or both
- runny or stuffy nose
- sore throat
- dry cough
- body aches
How to know your child has influenza
Your child's health care provider will do a general exam and may test to see if the virus is in your child's nose.
How to treat influenza
In general, treatment for the flu includes:
Antibiotics will not work on viruses.
- drinking lots of fluids
- taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or other over-the-counter medicines to treat symptoms. Follow your health care provider's or the package directions.
- Don't give aspirin to children. It could cause Reye's syndrome.
- Anti-viral medicine can reduce how severe the illness is. It works when prescribed by your health care provider within the first 48 hours.
How to prevent influenza
Make sure your child:
- covers his mouth when he coughs or sneezes
- gets plenty of rest
- washes his hands well with soap and water or a waterless alcohol product after going to the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing into his hands, after handling a tissue or other items that may have the flu germs
- have your child (older than 6 months) get an influenza vaccine each year. Ask your health care provider for details.
- parents of infants younger than 6 months old should be
vaccinated to prevent the spread of influenza to their
child. Children younger than six months old can’t receive
When to call your health care provider
Influenza is a serious disease. Each year, children and adults die from influenza.
Call your health care provider if your child has signs of other infection:
Call your health care provider if your child doesn't seem to improve in three to four days as most children show signs of getting better by this time. Your child will fully recover in 7 to 10 days.