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What is the flu?

The flu is a common and very contagious illness that is caused by influenza viruses that can infect the nose, throat, and sometimes even the lungs. The flu can cause anything from mild to severe illness, sometimes even death, so it’s important to take precaution if you can. Since the flu virus mutates, no one vaccine will keep your child protected, and it’s important to make sure your child receives the flu vaccine yearly. 

What are symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms can look very similar to the common cold or seasonal allergies, so it’s hard to determine which it is. When searching for a diagnosis, look for the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny or Stuffy Nose
  • Cough
  • Muscle and Body Aches
  • Tiredness and Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting in Diarrhea (common in children)

While these are the most common symptoms of the flu, not everyone with the flu will exhibit all of these. If you think your child has the flu, contact your pediatrician to administer a flu test for proper diagnosis.

Why is the flu so contagious?

On average, 8% of the population will get sick from the flu every season, with the numbers landing between 3% and 11% depending on the year. However, these statistics are solely taken from those who are symptomatic, so the percentage of people who have the flu is most likely larger. 

Children are most likely to get sick from the flu because of how the flu is spread. Flu viruses spread primarily by droplets when someone coughs, sneezes, or even talks. People can also catch the flu by touching their nose or mouth after touching surfaces an infected person has touched. Since children are less likely to cover their mouths and wash their hands frequently, but more likely to touch surfaces and their faces, the flu is spread more easily through daycares and schools.

How long does the flu last?

Symptoms of flu viruses can be anywhere from extremely mild to severe and present themselves 1-3 days after exposure. On average, flu symptoms last just 5-7 days, but fatigue may continue to show until two weeks from exposure.

If your child’s flu-like symptoms have lasted longer than the expected time or if they seem severe, contact your child’s provider to schedule a sick visit. 

How do I stop my child from getting the flu?

The best and most effective way to stop your child from getting the flu is to make sure they receive their flu vaccine. Not only does a flu vaccine help alleviate the severity of flu symptoms, it can also help lower the number of hospitalizations and deaths during flu season. The flu vaccine is distributed every year and is designed to protect a vaccinated person from the flu virus strains that research predicts will be the most common. 

In addition to the flu vaccine, there are other steps you can take to lower your child’s risk of catching the flu, such as:

  • Avoiding close contact with those who are or seem sick, especially those with flu-like symptoms
  • Teaching your child to cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze
  • Encouraging healthy hand washing habits with soap and water
  • Clean and disinfect any commonly touched surfaces thoroughly and often

Raleigh Pediatrics offers flu shots and recommends that in addition to your children, pregnant mothers and those who will be around your children often also receive their annual flu shot.

Flu vs. Common Cold vs. Covid-19

If the yearly struggle of trying to decide between the flu or the common cold wasn’t enough, Covid-19 symptoms can also mirror those of the flu and the common cold.

One key difference is the incubation period for the viruses. The flu and the common cold typically come on quickly, between one and three days from exposure. However, Covid-19 can take anywhere from two to fourteen days from exposure. 

Symptom-wise, it’s a little harder to distinguish between the three. Fever is rare for the common cold, but is common for both Covid-19 and the flu. Other symptoms, such as extreme exhaustion and aches are also less likely in the common cold than they are in Covid-19 and flu viruses. On the other hand, a sore throat and sneezing can often be seen in the common cold and the flu, but are less reported in confirmed Covid-19 cases. 

Regardless, it’s important to remember that not everyone will experience the same symptoms. If you feel sick, stay home and make an appointment for both a flu and Covid-19 test. 

When should I call my pediatrician at Raleigh Group?

No matter the issue, our knowledgeable Memphis pediatricians are here to help. While the flu will usually go away on its own after 7 to 10 days, there are some symptoms you should watch for.

  • Coughing up excess mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Can’t keep food or liquids down
  • Unable to swallow
  • Consistently high fever that won’t break
  • Earache

If your child develops any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician to schedule a sick-child visit or a Telemedicine appointment. Additionally, try our Symptom Checker to get quick answers to common sicknesses.  Raleigh Group has been helping families in Memphis and surrounding areas stay well and get better, season after season.  For more information, reach out.