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Fatigue from Influenza Can Affect a Child for Weeks

Influenza is one of the most severe illnesses. A viral infection of the respiratory tract, including the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi, influenza affects nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population each year.

Influenza is spread through any contact with an infected person. Because the flu is airborne, inhaling germs from coughing or sneezing is the most common way to contract the sickness.

Symptoms of the flu

Symptoms of the flu vary from child to child and may include:

  • Fever
  • Body aches 
  • Lack of energy 
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting

As the flu progresses, respiratory symptoms such as a dry hacking cough, sore throat, headache, nasal discharge and sneezing, begin to increase. These symptoms will usually go away within four to seven days, while the cough and tiredness can last for weeks longer.

Influenza is most contagious during the first 24 to 36 hours of contracting the virus. Because the symptoms of the flu usually do not appear for one to seven days, children who attend daycare or school are particularly susceptible to the flu. Once a child's fever is gone and his energy level is up, he can return to daycare or school.

Treating your child's flu symptoms

Therapy for the flu is generally the same as that of other viral respiratory infections. The treatment your child receives depends on his or her main symptoms. Boys Town Pediatrics suggests these home care remedies:

  • For fever or aches, give acetaminophen every 4-6 hours or ibuprofen every 6-8 hours. Do not give aspirin to a child or teenager with the flu, as it may lead to Reye's syndrome, a disease that affects the brain and liver.
  • For cough, give children over four years of age cough drops and children over one year 1/2 teaspoon corn syrup. 
  • For sore throat, give hard candy to children over four and warm chicken broth to children over one. 
  • For stuffy nose, use warm-water or saline nose drops and suction at least four times a day.

Unlike the common cold, influenza is preventable. The influenza vaccine protects against the flu, but is usually only recommended for children with chronic disease, such as asthma.

Ways to prevent the flu

There are several other ways to minimize the disease-causing germs, including:

  • Washing hands frequently especially after sneezing, coughing, wiping the nose, going to the bathroom, leaving places such as the pediatricians office and daycare center, or touching doorknobs. Use hand sanitizers when soap and water is not available.
  • Encouraging children to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to decrease the number of germs in the air. 
  • Keeping the air clean in your home by using a HEPA filter, which can remove 99% of pollen, dust, dander and bacteria from the air. 
  • Sanitizing kitchen sponges and dishcloths where the greatest concentration of germs can be found. Washing these items in the washing machine or dishwasher does not do enough to kill all the bacteria. Instead, wet the item and put it in the microwave for two minutes.

When to seek medical help

Contact your child's physician if complications occur such as earache, sinus pain or pressure, or fever lasts longer than three days. However, if your child develops a very high fever, has a seizure, is having difficulty breathing or starts to act very sick, call her physician immediately.
Always contact your child's physician anytime you have questions about your child's health.