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Protect Your Child from the Flu

The flu (influenza) is caused by a virus that’s easy to spread, especially among kids in school or daycare. And a child’s immune system is not as well developed as an adult’s. This means the flu can make children very sick.

Flu Symptoms

Flu symptoms tend to come on quickly. Symptoms include:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Fatigue, or feeling very tired

  • Dry cough

  • Sore throat

  • Runny nose

  • Muscle aches

Children may also have upset stomach and vomiting. Some symptoms, such as fatigue and cough, can last a few weeks.

Girl at bathroom sink, showing her soapy hands

To Protect Your Child

Here’s how you can help your child stay healthy:


  • Have your child get a flu vaccine every year, as soon as it is available in your area.
     This is your child’s best chance to avoid the flu. The CDC recommends that infants and children get flu vaccines beginning at 6 months of age. The vaccine may be a shot or nasal spray. Your child's health care provider will determine which is best for your child.

  • Help your child wash his or her hands often. 

  • Don't allow your child to drink from the same cup or share other foods.

  • Teach your child to cough or sneeze into his or her elbow, sleeve, or a tissue, and to wash their hands afterwards.

If Your Child Gets Sick

  • Give your child plenty of fluids, such as an electrolyte solution, water, juice, and soup.

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.

  • Keep your child at home to prevent the spread of germs. Do so until at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.

  • Use “children’s strength” medication for symptoms. Discuss over-the-counter (OTC) products with your child's health care provider before using them. Never give your child aspirin, and never give ibuprofen to an infant age 6 months or younger.
    NOTE: Do not give OTC cough and cold medications to a child under age 6, unless your child's health care provider tells you to do so.

  • Ask your child’s provider about antiviral medication. If taken within the first two days of the flu, it can help your child have fewer symptoms and get well sooner.

When to Call Your Child's Health Care Provider

Call your child's health care provider if your otherwise healthy child has:

  • Shortness of breath or fast breathing

  • Worsening symptoms, especially after a period of improvement

  • Bluish-tinged skin

  • Trouble waking up or is not alert

  • In an infant under age 3 months, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • In a child of any age who has a repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher

  • A fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2, or for three days in a child age 2 or older

  • Had a seizure caused by the fever

  • Fever with rash

  • Severe or continued vomiting

  • Signs of dehydration: decreased urination (diapers not as wet as usual in a baby or toddler); dry mouth; no tears when crying

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 8/28/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.