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Health Matters: Recognizing Flu Symptoms in Children

Health Matters: Recognizing Flu Symptoms in Children

During flu season, it’s understandable for parents to worry about their children contracting this debilitating illness. But, it’s not always easy to know what symptoms they should be looking for or if a child is really just suffering the common cold.

According to Dr. Andrew Modic, a board-certified physician in both internal medicine and pediatrics at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, one tell-tale sign of the flu is a fever. “When you think about the flu, about 95 percent of kids will have a fever. Many of those will be over 102 degrees Fahrenheit,” he explains.

Other symptoms may include runny nose, headache, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Typically, these symptoms tend to have an abrupt onset. “Classically, a parent will tell me the child was perfectly fine in the morning, and then by the afternoon they just look and feel miserable,” shares Dr. Modic. Symptoms typically persist less than a week, but some kids can have cough or fatigue for up to two weeks.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The rapid flu test is used in most pediatric practices and is generally accurate if it comes back positive. Unfortunately, if the test is negative, your child still might have the flu. “It only detects the flu in about 50-70 percent of cases,” notes Dr. Modic. “So, in these cases, your physician may look at your child’s symptoms, exposures to the flu, rate of flu in the community, and then decide to treat for the flu if their suspicion is high enough.”

Treatment options include Tamiflu, which works best if administered within 12-14 hours of symptom onset—shortening the flu’s duration by up to three days. If given within 48 hours, Tamiflu may prevent complications such as ear infections and pneumonia.

“In some cases, for kids who are high risk for flu complications—let’s say they are less than five years old or they have asthma or heart conditions or some other chronic illness—their pediatrician may decide to treat even after they have had symptoms for 48 hours,” explains Dr. Modic.

Tamiflu is highly tolerated, with only about 14 percent of patients experiencing nausea or stomach pain. “Certainly, this is much better than having the flu,” adds Dr. Modic.

Flu Prevention

Dr. Modic affirms the best way to protect your children—and yourself—from contracting influenza is the flu vaccine. Some parents are hesitant to proceed with the vaccine, but he reassures them of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. “I talk to parents a lot about this subject and when it’s brought up, I first remind them we are on the same team. We both want to keep their child healthy and happy,” he shares.

Children less than six months of age cannot receive the flu shot, so it’s important to be hyper-aware of an infant’s exposure.

Other preventative measures include a stringent hand-washing regimen and avoiding touching the face; specifically the mouth and nose areas. Regularly clean surfaces with disinfectant and attend public events with caution. “You only need to be within about six feet of someone who has the flu in order to get it,” warns Dr. Modic.

Andrew Modic

**To listen to an interview with Dr. Andrew Modic, a board-certified physician in both internal medicine and pediatrics at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, follow this link: