Influenza is a respiratory illness that has some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Fever (Temperature at least 100º F)
  • Sore Throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle/body aches
  • Occasionally diarrhea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain (these are not major or common symptoms)

The symptoms of the flu, including fever, may last for as long as a week. There may sometimes be a good day or two in the middle when it seems like the illness is ending, but the symptoms may return. Although rare, the most common complication of the flu is pneumonia, a lung infection. So if a patient with influenza has the onset of difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, he/she must see the physician promptly. Other reasons to call the doctor are extreme lethargy where the child doesn’t interact normally, or when the child is unable to drink and may be dehydrated. If an infant is inconsolable, one should also call.

The prevention of influenza includes avoiding exposure when possible, good hygiene, and of course, vaccination. The Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older receive an influenza vaccine. As in previous years, the vaccine is available in a shot and also in a nasal mist. The nasal mist may be given to children 2 years of age and older unless they have persistent asthma.

The treatment for influenza is supportive measures including rest, fluids, and analgesics/antipyretics such as acetaminophen. Try to eat as best as you can. Nutrition helps to both fight and recover from illness. Anyone who is sick with fever and cough should stay home so as not to spread the flu.

Since a virus causes influenza, there is no antibiotic to cure it. The treatment is rest, fluids, nutrition, and medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for comfort. “Tamiflu” and other antiviral medications are not a cure for influenza. They may lessen the symptoms somewhat and shorten the illness by only one day. They are reserved for patients at high risk for complications of the flu, such as those with asthma or other chronic illnesses.