Influenza, commonly called flu, is a viral infection which attacks the respiratory system of a human being. Often the symptoms of influenza or flu are mistaken for the symptoms of common cold. There are three types of flu caused by strain types A, B, C. Type A strain is N1H1 strain which is able to spread fast and can in a short time convert into an epidemic. Flu causes acute infection in the wind pipe of a person who gets infected. The nose and throat also do not remain uninfected. In extreme cases it could affect lungs also.
Children are in the group which is more likely to get infected but even the adults are not spared. The chances of spreading this problem is more at the time when the temperature falls and the peak season is between November to March.
Flu has been divided into three categories depending upon the strain of virus it carries with it. Irrespective of the type it is highly contagious and spreads when a person inhales infected droplets released in the air by sneezing or coughing by an infected person. It can also spread with touch by an infected person. When an infected person picks up a child, he can easily get infected.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of Influenza in children begin to appear within a day or two after infestation of virus and the upper respiratory system is the first to get attacked.
- First symptom being the patient developing high grade fever, pain in muscles and feeling of chill in body and cough. These symptoms last for about four days but cough and feeling of tiredness continues for about 10 to 15 days. Members of the household are also likely to be affected and develop similar symptoms.
- Influenza in children is more likely to be accompanied with abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Fever is quite high and the child gets irritated very soon.
- This problem is not very common in children below 6 months of age.
In case of smaller kids being less than 2 years of age, if there is symptom of flu it is better to consult the doctor immediately. For those above 5 years of age there will be a cause of worry if:
The fever continues for more than three days.
Or after fever is normal nasal discharge does not stop and goes beyond 10 days.
Or the nasal discharge becomes yellow and thick.
Or if there is some discharge from the eyes.
In worst cases,
- Where the child feels difficulty in breathing or breathing is fast even after the nasal suffocation has cleared.
- If the child feels sick even after the first few days of the attack or does not respond in a normal manner as he used to earlier, like responding to your call, or crying when pinched.
- The child does not take adequate liquid and there are symptoms of dehydration.
- Continues to vomit.
- Temperature does not come down even after medicines have been administered as per the doctor’s prescription or as prescribed on the label of packaging.
- Seizures occur on the child.
This will be a cause of concern and the child needs to be shifted to the hospital immediately for extensive check up. The doctor in the hospital will be able to judge the problem even by physical inspection. Many rapid tests are now available to ascertain the type of viral infection. The doctor may take swab of mucus from nose or throat and send it for checking. In extreme cases X-ray may be got done to ensure about pneumonia attack.
When the child is suffering from influenza the best treatment will be:
- To take adequate care of the child.
- Make him get maximum possible rest, preferably in bed.
- Use humidifier in the room to enable the child to breathe easily.
- In case of high fever and pain in muscles, the child may be administered some medicine to make him feel comfortable.
- In case of running nose, keep the nose area clean using a disposable napkin.
- In case of stuffy nose you can use rubber suction pump to clear the nose block, this will help the child feel better.
The symptoms will start to recede in four days and the child will be normal. Till the child has fully recovered do not send him or her to school. Preventive viral vaccines are now available and have been included in the regular vaccination programme. Ensure that your child has been properly vaccinated.