The Critical Signs Your Kid’s Flu Is Serious

How to know if your child’s flu has taken a turn for the worse.

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If you’re a parent, it’s natural to feel a little panicky around flu season—especially because this year’s main strain, H3N2, is particularly vicious.

Children’s immature immune systems already make them more vulnerable to the flu (especially if they’re younger than 5 or have a chronic condition like diabetes or asthma), but having H3N2 in the mix—along with other such flu strains as H1N1 and influenza B, which are common revisitors—can increase the risk of life-threatening flu-related complications. According to the CDC, a total of 84 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported for the 2017-2018 season so far.

This is a scary thought for a parent, but the good news is that most kids who get the flu recover fully. Still, it’s critical to able to tell when your kid’s flu has taken a turn for the worse, so you can get medical attention.

Typical flu symptoms are a fever of 100°F (37.8°C) or higher, sore throat, cough, runny nose, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue. If your kid’s fever goes down, he or she should feel better soon with plenty of fluids and rest. However, if your kid is in a high-risk group or you notice any of these symptoms, see a doctor ASAP:

  • Severe headache or neck stiffness
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • No tears when crying
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Not interacting, less alert, or not waking
  • Flu symptoms or fever that improve then come back

Children can die every year from the flu. The best way to protect your family is to be vigilant for symptoms, and for everyone (6 months or older) to get the flu shot each year.