man in bed with a pile of tissuesInfluenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. It affects all age groups, though kids tend to get it more often than adults. In the United States, flu season runs from October to May, with most cases occurring between late December and early March.

Symptoms Of The Flu

The flu is often confused with the common cold, but symptoms of the flu are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold.

Symptoms, which usually begin about 2 days after exposure to the virus, can include:

√ Fever √ Chills √ Headache
√ Muscle Aches √ Dizziness √ Loss of Appetite
√ Tiredness √ Cough √ Sore Throat
√ Runny Nose √ Nausea or Vomiting √ Weakness
√ Ear Pain √ Diarrhea

Infants with the flu also may seem fussy all of a sudden or just “not look right.”

Who Is At Risk For Flu

young girl lying down in bed with thermometer in her mouthAlthough flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 6 months or older, in times when the vaccine is in short supply, certain people need it more than others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) often will recommend that certain high-risk groups be given priority when flu shot supplies are limited. Call your doctor or local public health department about vaccine availability in your area.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the CDC recommend that certain high-risk groups — and those in close contact with them — be given priority for receiving the flu shot in times of shortage:

  1. all kids 6 months through 4 years old
  2. anyone 50 years and older
  3. women who will be pregnant during the flu season
  4. anyone with a weakened immune system
  5. residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
  6. any adult or child with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma
  7. anyone who lives or works with: infants under 6 months old, children under 5, adults 50 or older
  8. health care personnel who have direct contact with patients
  9. caregivers of anyone in a high-risk group
  10. those who live with someone in a high-risk category

Flu Treatment

Cases of the flu rarely require specific medical treatment. But some kids with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, and HIV) or children under 2 years old might become sicker with the flu and may have a greater risk of complications. Some kids with the flu need to be hospitalized.

For a severely ill child or one with other special circumstances, a doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine that can decrease the duration of illness by 1-2 days and prevent potential complications of the flu. This medicine can only be helpful if it’s given within 48 hours of the onset of the flu. Most healthy people who get the flu do not need to take an antiviral medication. If an antiviral medication is prescribed, be sure to discuss any possible side effects with your doctor.