Common Concerns

Flu Facts

About Flu
Influenza (commonly called the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. An estimated 10% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year.

Symptoms of Flu
Symptoms of flu include fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Although nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can sometimes accompany the flu, the term “stomach flu” is a misnomer and is sometimes used to describe gastrointestinal illnesses caused by organisms other than the flu virus.

Most people recover fully after one to two weeks, but some develop serious complications, such as pneumonia. The very old and very young are most at risk for complications as are people with chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes, respiratory conditions, and immunologic disorders.

Contagiousness and incubation period
Virus-infected droplets coughed or sneezed into the air spread influenza. Symptoms usually appear one to four days after a person is exposed to the flu virus. People are contagious for about 24 hours before they exhibit symptoms until about seven days after that. Compared with adults, children have high infection rates and prolonged viral shedding with large amounts of infectious virus. They also come into close contact with many other children thereby increasing their risk of exposure to the influenza virus.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each fall. Because the vaccine is not foolproof, however, there are other ways to protect against the flu.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • Stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick to avoid spreading your illness, and keep kids home from daycare when they are ill;
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing;
  • Wash your hands often to help protect you against germs;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends flu vaccine for all children 6 months of age and older, their household contacts, and out of home caregivers. Certain other children with chronic medical conditions should receive the vaccine including those with asthma, diabetes, or significant heart disease.  Children less than nine years old who have not received the vaccine before require two doses, at least 1 month apart. The optimum time to be immunized against the flu is October through January for the initial dose.

There is an approved intranasal (sprayed into the nose) influenza vaccine (Flumist) for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49 years. Children aged 9 years and older still need 2 doses, at least 2 weeks apart.

Certain persons should not receive the vaccine including those who are allergic to eggs or chickens because the vaccine is produced in egg embryos. Speak with our office about the appropriateness of the flu vaccine for your child, and to receive complete vaccination information.

Children with the flu should rest in bed to help their bodies fight the infection. Fluids are helpful to prevent dehydration and mobilize secretions in the airway. A non-aspirin medication such as acetaminophen can be taken to relieve aches and pains and to reduce fever. Do not give your child aspirin because of the risk of Reye syndrome (a neurological disorder) associated with aspirin use and influenza.

A few drugs have been approved in children for the treatment of influenza. They have side effects, however, and must be used within two days of onset of illness to be effective. In addition, they are only effective in reducing flu symptoms by about one day. Talk with your doctor about whether these drugs are indicated in your child.

Call us if your child is less than six months old and shows signs of the flu, if your child seems particularly ill, or any time you have a question about your child’s condition.

For further information on the flu, check out the following web sites:

Taken in part from Department of Health and Human ServicesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention Fact Sheet


Common Concerns

Adolescent Stress

Caring for Your Newborn


Coughs & Colds


Dietary Guidelines

Ear Pain



Flu Facts

Milk Allergy

Runny Nose

Pink Eye


Sore Throat

Vaccines for Adolescence


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