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Flu (influenza) is a viral disease that, in the vast majority of cases, causes up to a week of high fever, coughing, cold symptoms and body aches (especially in older children and adults). Most children can handle the flu by themselves. Your task as a parent is to offer your child comfort and peace, a safe embrace, relief from a sore throat and plenty of ice cream and juice. There is no need to visit the pediatric emergency room for tests if your child just has the flu. However, if your child has a severe heart disease, lung disease, brain damage or immunodeficiency AND the flu, then they may need flu medications.
Symptoms of the flu
In the vast majority of cases, influenza causes fever, coughing and body aches. It’s not uncommon for young children to have a fever of up to 105-107F (41-42C) that stays for up to a week. Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing are also common. Your child’s immune system is usually able to fight the flu off themselves. You just need to offer your children some comfort and love, make sure that they drink adequate amounts and help ease their symptoms eg. sore throat, fever with acetaminophen when required.
Severe flu can lead to pneumonia
The flu can sometimes lead to pneumonia, which can be mild or severe. A child with pneumonia has an intense cough, persistent fever and finds it increasingly difficult to breathe. If your child has difficulty breathing or shows any signs of dehydration, seek emergency medical care. If the breathing is severe, ambulance transport may be recommended.
Tamiflu and other flu medications
There are medications that can slow the progress of the flu virus. Perhaps the most well-known medication is Tamiflu (oseltamivir). But there is also another medication called Relenza (zanamivir). Flu medications are recommended for people with increased risk of severe flu, especially for children with immune deficiencies, are taking immunosuppressive drugs or have severe asthma. Children with multiple disabilities also have an increased risk of a severe flu. Anyone with a severe flu with pneumonia should also receive flu medications.
Preventing the flu
The best protection we have against influenza is the flu vaccine. It cannot protect us 100%, and the level of protection also varies from year to year, but it’s the best we have at the moment. Children in the risk group are recommended annual flu vaccinations. This is voluntary, but encouraged. Therefore it is often up to you as a parent to seek the vaccination for your child.
The flu situation in Sweden right now
The Public Health Agency monitors the influenza situation in Sweden every year. From week 40 in Autumn, they send out weekly flu reports.