Influenza, otherwise known as the flu, is a common respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. This respiratory infection is more common in flu season, which typically occurs during the fall and winter months (starting around October and lasting through May). The peak of the influenza virus usually occurs between December and February.
Every flu season, approximately 20 to 40 million people catch the flu, the majority of which are children and older adults. Influenza can cause mild to severe illness, especially in certain high-risk patients.
Below is a summary of what the flu is, its symptoms, and its risk in children.
Basics of the Flu
The flu or influenza has many types, with influenza A, B, and C being the most common types. Influenza A and B affect most people in the winter season and have more severe symptoms, while influenza C is not seasonal and does not typically cause severe symptoms.
The flu is contagious and is spread from one person to another through direct or indirect contact. Most commonly, children get the flu when someone with the flu talks, sneezes, or coughs near them. The child inhales the droplets directly and catches the flu. They can also get the flu when they touch objects or surfaces that have the influenza virus on them.
Influenza is more contagious one day before the symptoms appear until four days after they start.
The symptoms of the influenza virus, such as runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat, may seem like symptoms of a common cold at first. However, these conditions are different in the sense that colds usually develops slowly but the flu tends to come on suddenly. Moreover, a cold may make you feel sick, but you will likely feel much worse with the flu.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu are:
- Aching muscle
- Fever, which may be as high as 103°F to 105°F
- Tiredness and weakness
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Persistent dry cough that gets worse
In some cases, a child with the flu may also have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Even though most children recover from the flu within a week, they still feel very tired for as long as three to four weeks.
If your child has symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe muscle pain, pale, gray, or blue-colored skin and nails, and worsened existing medical conditions, take them to a doctor right away.
Flu Risks in Children
Children and older adults are at higher risk for catching the flu and having worse symptoms. Children are more likely to catch the flu:
- If they are around people infected with the flu
- Have not had the flu vaccine
- Do not practice good hygiene, e.g., do not wash hands after touching outside surfaces
Moreover, young children who have certain underlying health conditions such as asthma or immune disorders are more likely to catch the flu and develop complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, dehydration, the worsening of chronic medical conditions, and febrile seizures.
Flu Shots for Kids in Purchase, New York
Getting your child vaccinated against the influenza virus is one of the most effective ways to prevent them from catching the flu and experiencing its potential complications and troublesome symptoms. Flu shots are designed to protect children and adults against the most common strains of the influenza virus that are expected to circulate during each flu season.
At Westchester Park Pediatrics, we have a team of highly trained and compassionate pediatricians who have received board certification in pediatrics and offer a comprehensive range of pediatric healthcare services, including flu shots.
If you would like to know more about the flu or flu shots, or if you would like to schedule an in-person consultation with one of our board-certified pediatricians, call (914) 761-1717 or request a visit online.