This article provides basic information on flu in young children and suggests measures to prevent kids from flu infection.
By Dr Parin Parmar
Influenza, popularly known as “flu”, is a common viral infection in children. Many cities in India will see outbreaks of flu from May onwards, as it is a favourable season for the virus to spread. However, as India is a big country, the influenza season is different for different parts of the country.
Influenza infection in a 4-year old kid needs special mention, as kids below five are more prone to develop complications of influenza when compared to adults. Let’s take a look at what influenza is, how it spreads, and how some simple measures can prevent your kid from getting infected.
The commonest way by which the flu virus spreads is through contact with an infected person. When a person infected with the virus talks, coughs, or sneezes, he spreads the virus to his surroundings. The virus can enter people around the infected person through their nose, mouth, or eyes.
Infection can also spread by touching an object touched by the infected person. For instance, a child may touch an infected gadget or furniture and then touch his nose, mouth or eyes, and the virus from his hand then enters his body.
It would help to remember that a person who has caught a flu infection is able to spread the virus from 1 day prior to the onset of his symptoms to 5-7 days after getting sick. Some infected people can spread the virus for an even longer duration.
Like many other viral illnesses, kids infected with influenza virus develop fever, sore throat, cough and cold. He may complain of headache, body ache, or pain in the ears. An energetic kid suddenly appears tired and sick. His stomach may also get upset. He may have nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhoea. His appetite becomes poor and he may refuse food. Some kids also develop conjunctivitis (red eyes with discharge).
Most children recover within 1-2 weeks, but some of them develop complications like pneumonia, superadded bacterial infection, convulsions and other neurological complications. Such children need hospitalization and close monitoring during treatment.
The author is a Paediatric Allergist-Immunologist and a Music Therapy Researcher-Faculty.
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