Flu in children: Serious symptoms and when to see your doctor

Flu in children: Serious symptoms and when to see your doctor

Children with influenza, referred to as the flu, typically get better at home. However, a child may need to go to the hospital for care when their symptoms are serious or last a long time.

In order to prevent complications, some signs and symptoms mean that medical attention is required. These should be known to parents and caregivers so that they know if appropriate to take prompt action.

In this post, we mention the symptoms of the flu in children to look out for. The standard timeline of flu symptoms and when to carry a child to the hospital are also explained.


The flu is a respiratory disease. It happens when the nose, mouth, or, occasionally, the lungs are compromised by an influenza virus. In infants, the flu symptoms are identical to those in adults. They include:

Some kids can experience vomiting or diarrhea as well.

The flu is not similar to the common cold. A parent or caregiver may help distinguish which illness affects a child through the main variations between cold and flu symptoms.

Typically, the flu is followed by a fever and severe fatigue. These symptoms are much more unusual in colds.

It is also important to remember that flu symptoms may be comparable to those of COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus. If there is a risk that a child may have COVID-19, it is important to make sure that before arriving at a hospital or medical facility, staff members are aware of this.

When to seek help

In most cases, a child with the flu should be treated at home by parents or caregivers. However, they will need to go to the hospital when the child has more serious symptoms or symptoms that last for longer than normal.

If a child has the following symptoms, they need emergency medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC):

Hospital treatments

Doctors may use a variety of therapies to help them recover from the flu if a child needs hospital treatment. These include:

  • intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration
  • antiviral medications to combat the flu virus
  • oxygen therapy, if a child is struggling to breathe

Since 2010, 7,000-26,000 kids than 5 years of age have required hospitalization each year because of the flu, according to the CDC.


Children are at risk from the flu of developing health problems. One study looking at a group of children with the flu noted that complications developed in 28.6% of them.

Some possible complications include:

  • Pneumonia: This lung infection can cause breathing difficulties.
  • Worsened chronic medical conditions: The flu can sometimes make a chronic medical condition, such as diabetesasthma, or cystic fibrosis, difficult to manage.
  • Brain dysfunction: Sometimes, the flu may cause encephalopathy. This term refers to damage or disease that affects the brain.
  • Sinus problems: The flu may cause a child to develop sinus infections.
  • Death: It is relatively rare for a child to die from the flu, according to the CDC. They note that in 2017–2018, the flu was responsible for the deaths of about 600 children in the U.S.

As such, to protect them from certain types of flu virus, it is important for individuals to get a flu shot every year.


Children generally need about 2 weeks to recover from the flu, although if they have severe symptoms or experience complications, recovery may take longer. Normally, the infection takes the following course:

Day 1

The flu tends to occur suddenly and unexpectedly. When going to bed, a child may seem fine, but then the next day he will suddenly be quite sick.

The virus continues to be transmitted from children for longer than from adults. Therefore, a child should remain at home to rest and prevent the transmission of the virus to others at the earliest signs of flu.

Day 2–3

Usually, the beginning of the flu is when the symptoms are most severe. Fever, fatigue, and weakness will likely be experienced by a child.

Day 4–7

A child may no longer have a fever after a couple of days. They may still, however, feel weak and fatigued.

They might have a dry cough or a sore throat as well.

Day 8–14

Within 2 weeks, a child should make a complete recovery. After day 7, most symptoms will subside. Up until the 2-week mark, however, a child can still feel tired or weak.


Without having to go to the hospital, most kids with the flu will make a full recovery at home. However, the flu can be harmful for some children, and medical attention is important.

It is also possible that children who need hospitalization due to the flu will make a complete recovery. Childhood death from the flu is relatively rare.

The best approach to the flu is to try to prevent it. Any child 6 months and older should receive an annual vaccine for influenza, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although this does not protect the child from all flu viruses, it will protect them from the more common strains that researchers predict to be circulating that season.

In order to remove germs, parents and caregivers should also enable children to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly.