A uniformed school aged girl sneezes into a handkerchief while her classmates look on.


Influenza is a respiratory illness that spreads easily and can be particularly harmful for children under the age of five because they are at higher risk of serious flu-related complications. This risk is even greater in children with chronic health conditions like asthma and diabetes.1

Many of the flu symptoms in children are similar to adults:1

  • A fever of 1000F (380C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Headache and body aches
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Acting tired and cranky

When treating a child with the flu, make sure they get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. You can also give them an over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help reduce fever and body aches. However, it’s important to know that you should NEVER give aspirin to a child who might have the flu as it may cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare, but potentially fatal illness.1, 3

Also, be sure not to wrap your child very tightly with blankets or extra clothes because this may keep his or her fever from coming down—or even make it higher. Instead, try a layer of light clothing and a thin blanket. A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help lower a fever. But avoid ice, cold baths or alcohol rubs as they can cause shivering and make your child more uncomfortable.1

Most children will get better without needing to go to a doctor. But if your child is exhibiting any of the following symptoms or suffers from another illness that may cause flu complications, such as asthma or diabetes, you should talk to your doctor or go to the hospital right away:4

  • Fast or troubled breathing
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Skin color that’s gray or bluish
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or acting alert
  • Being so irritable that they don’t want to be held
  • Symptoms that come back worse after they have gone away

The best way to protect your children from the flu is to get them vaccinated every year. In addition, anyone who lives with or cares for infants and children should also be vaccinated.5 You can also take everyday preventive measures, such as encouraging everyone in the family to:4

  • Cover their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze
  • Wash their hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Avoid touching their mouths, noses and eyes
  • Stay away from crowds and people who are sick
  • Disinfect surfaces that may harbor germs, such as phones, countertops and toys

To help reduce the chance of spreading the flu to others, please take the following precautions:2

  • Keep your sick child in a separate room to help limit his or her contact with healthy family members.
  • Have one person be the main caregiver for the sick child. If possible, the caregiver should not be someone who is at high risk for severe complications from the flu, such as pregnant women, the elderly, individuals with weakened immune systems or people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
  • Don’t allow your sick child to share food, drinks or eating utensils with others.
  • Unless you need to seek medical care, keep your sick child at home until at least 24 hours after his or her fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

1. National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus. Your Child and the Flu. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007445.htm. Accessed August 20, 2014.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What to Do if Your Child Gets Sick with the Flu. http://www.cdc.gov/immigrantrefugeehealth/pdf/seasonal-flu/what_to_do_english_508.pdf. Accessed August 20, 2014.
3. Mayo Clinic. Diseases and Conditions: Influenza. Lifestyle and Home Remedies. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20035101. Accessed August 20, 2014.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Flu: A Guide for Parents. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/fluguideforparents_brochure.pdf. Accessed August 20, 2014.
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Protecting Against Influenza (Flu): Advice for Caregivers of Children Younger Than 6 Months Old. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/infantcare.htm. Accessed August 20, 2014.

Information provided is for general background purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by a trained professional. You should always consult your physician about any healthcare questions you may have, especially before trying a new medication, diet, fitness program, or approach to healthcare issues.
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