Helpful Information from the CDC, Center of Disease Control, about the flu:
(Download the pdf below for a printable format with illustrations.)
The Flu: A Guide For Parents from the CDC
What is the flu?:
Influenza (the flu) is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by influenza viruses. There are many different influenza viruses that are constantly changing. Flu viruses cause illness, hospital stays and deaths in the United States each year. The flu can be very dangerous for children. Each year about 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized from flu complications, like pneumonia.
How serious is the flu?
Flu illness can vary from mild to severe. While the flu can be serious even in people who are otherwise healthy, it can be especially dangerous for young children and children of any age who have certain long-term health conditions, including asthma (even mild or controlled), neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders (such as diabetes), kidney, liver, and metabolic disorders, and weakened immune systems due to disease or medication. Children with these conditions and children who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy can have severe illness from the flu.
How does the flu spread?
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get the flu by touching something that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea (more common in
children than adults). Some people with the flu will not have a fever.
How long can a sick person spread the flu to others?
People with the flu may be able to infect others by shedding virus from 1 day before getting sick to 5 to 7 days after. However, children and people with weakened immune systems can shed virus for longer, and may be still contagious past 5 to 7 days of flu illness, especially if they still have symptoms.
PROTECT YOUR CHILD
How can I protect my child against the flu?
To protect against the flu, the CDC recommends that the first and most important thing you can do is to get a flu vaccine for yourself and your child. Vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. It’s especially important that young children and children with long term health conditions get vaccinated.
What are some of the other ways I can protect my child against the flu?
In addition to getting vaccinated, you and your children can take everyday steps to help prevent the spread of germs.
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- If your child is sick with flu-like illness, try to keep him or her in a separate room from others in the household, if possible.
- CDC recommends that your sick child stay home for at least 24 hours after his or her fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after it has been used.
- Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect hard surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs, including bathroom surfaces, kitchen counters and toys for children. Clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
These everyday steps are a good way to reduce your chances of getting sick.
IF YOUR CHILD IS SICK
What can I do if my child gets sick?
Talk to your doctor early if you are worried about your child’s illness. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks enough fluids. If your child is 5 years and older and does not have other health problems and gets flu-like symptoms, including a fever and/or cough, consult your doctor as needed. Children younger than 5 years of age – especially those younger than 2 years old – and children with certain chronic conditions, including asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system, at high risk of serious flurelated complications. If your child is at high risk for flu complications, call your doctor or take them to the doctor right away if they develop flu-like symptoms.
What if my child seems very sick?
Even previously healthy children can get very sick from the flu. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks enough fluids. If your child is 5 years or older and does not have other health problems and gets flu-like symptoms, including a fever and/or cough, consult your doctor as needed.
Can my child go to school, day care or camp if he or she is sick?
No. Your child should stay home to rest and to avoid giving the flu to other children or caregivers.
When can my child go back to school after having the flu?
Keep your child home from school, day care or camp for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone. (The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) A fever is defined as 100°F or higher.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/flu or www.flu.gov or call 800-CDC-INFO