Causes & Risk Factors
What causes the flu in children?
The flu is caused by certain viruses being transmitted through small droplets that travel in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can then enter another person’s body through the nose or mouth.
Flu viruses are divided into three types:
Influenza A and B. These two types are the usual cause of widespread infections during winter in some parts of the world, as well as the most common causes of flu-related hospitalizations. It is important to note, however, that the majority of flu cases do not require hospitalization. Doctors and health officials are very keen to stop the spread of influenza A and B. This type of virus can mutate so people are exposed to new strains every year.
Influenza C. This virus usually causes a mild infection of the respiratory system with little to no symptoms. Influenza C is not as much of a public health emergency as compared to the two types above since it doesn’t cause human flu epidemics.
What increases your child’s risk for the flu?
There are many risk factors that increase your child’s chances of contracting the flu. These should be taken into consideration when you take your child to the hospital for the flu.
The risk factors include:
- Exposure to people who have the flu
- Not receiving flu vaccines or seasonal flu shot
- Practicing improper hygiene
- Weakened immune system
- Your child is under a year old
- Radiation or chemotherapy
- Chronic illness
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is influenza in children diagnosed?
Your doctor or pediatrician can usually easily spot if your child has the flu through an examination and description of symptoms. When you take your child to the hospital for flu, the doctor may get a mucus sample to run some tests and verify the diagnosis. This is because the flu shares symptoms with other illnesses and conditions.
How is influenza in children treated?
Treatment for the flu largely depends on the child’s age, general health, symptoms, and the severity of the infection. Treatment for the flu aims to provide relief and prevent the worsening of symptoms.
Here are some possible treatments for the flu:
Acetaminophen or Paracetamol. This helps with pain relief and fever management.
Cough medicine. This helps suppress coughing fits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend giving cough medicine to children who are 4 years old or younger.
Antiviral medicine. Doctors usually prescribe antiviral medicine to very ill patients. It can shorten the illness by 1 to 2 days if taken within the first 48 hours after the beginning of the flu.
Seasonal flu shots and flu vaccines. Prevention is still the best treatment for the flu. Influenza viruses adapt and evolve very quickly. Seasonal flu shots protect against the influenza viruses that are projected to be in circulation in the coming season.
Always consult your doctor before trying out new medications. Do not take two medicines with the same active ingredient, like a pain reliever or a decongestant, as it may lead to an accidental overdose.
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help you manage influenza in children?
Since most children can recover from the flu at home, consider some of these tips to prevent and manage the flu at home.
To prevent spreading or contracting the flu:
Promote good hygiene. Encourage your children to frequently wash their hands with soap and water, especially after touching a possibly infected surface, and to cover their mouths and noses with tissue when they sneeze or cough.
Avoid crowds. The flu is very contagious, so it’s best to keep your children away from those who are infected with an influenza virus. Likewise, encourage your children to stay away from other people while they are ill. Children should stay home from school and other places until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever medicine. Consult your doctor before letting your child go back to school.
Get flu vaccines. Seasonal flu shots and vaccines are the best and most effective way to avoid becoming ill and spreading the flu.
In case your child comes down with the flu, encourage your child to:
Drink lots of fluids. This prevents dehydration and replaces liquids lost in the production of mucus.
Get plenty of rest and sleep. Since a common symptom of the flu is extreme tiredness, your child should take it easy.
Wear plenty of layers that are easy to put on and remove. Children who are sick with the flu may feel hot one moment and then cold the next.
Learn more about Respiratory Health, here.