Winter is coming which also means flu season is coming. While you can catch the flu (or influenza) any time of year, flu viruses are most common during the colder months. Different from stomach viruses, the influenza virus attacks your nose, throat, and lungs which make up your respiratory system.

Nearly everyone will experience the flu at some point in their lives and they may come down with it multiple times. Both adults and children are susceptible to the flu, but now that children are regularly back in school their risk of getting it is slightly higher.

Flu Causes

The flu is caused by influenza viruses. There are several different strains of the flu virus and these strains are constantly changing and evolving. Plus, new strains emerge on a regular basis. That’s why even if you’ve had the flu before, you may still get sick from a new virus strain. Your body won’t have made antibodies to fight each individual strain, but only the strain you’ve previously been infected with.

How Does the Flu Spread?

The flu most often spreads through droplets in the air that are created when someone infected coughs, sneezes, or talks. Your child may become ill by inhaling these droplets or by coming into contact with them after they have settled on an object that hasn’t been cleaned. If the virus gets into the hands and fingers, it can easily be introduced to the body through touching your eyes, mouth and nose.

Since children are not as mindful about covering their mouths when they cough and sneeze, or about keeping their fingers out of their eyes, mouths, and noses, they’re less likely to take steps toward flu prevention.

Someone with the flu is contagious from about a day before the symptoms start and will remain contagious for a further 5-6 days. Anyone or anything a person comes into contact with during this time period has the potential of spreading the virus.

The Flu vs A Cold

Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a cold and the flu because they share several similar symptoms. They are both viral diseases that affect the respiratory system, but are caused by very different types of viruses. The easiest way to tell the difference is by comparing how quickly the symptoms started.

The common cold tends to come on gradually whereas the flu comes on hard and fast. Your child will also be sicker with the flu than they would be from a cold. If their symptoms seem mild and took time to develop, then it might be a cold instead of a flu.

Another way to tell the difference between a cold and the flu is to check for specific symptoms. The flu causes some symptoms that don’t happen during a cold like muscle pain, dizziness, and chills.

Flu Symptoms

The symptoms of the flu are similar in both adults and children. The flu causes several symptoms that can be extremely uncomfortable no matter how old the patient is. It’s not uncommon for children to become very distressed when suffering from the symptoms of the flu.

Your child may not experience all of these, but common flu symptoms include:

●     Fast onset

●     Fever

●     Chills and shivers

●     Coughing

●     Eye pain or redness

●     Sore throat

●     Nasal congestion

●     Chest congestion

●     Muscle and body pain

●     Dizziness

●     Loss of appetite

●     Headache

●     Ear ache

●     Lethargy

●     Vomiting and diarrhoea

Flu Complications

Most otherwise healthy people will recover from the flu on their own within a few days to a week. Over the counter medications should be enough to reduce the severity of any uncomfortable symptoms. Medical intervention from a doctor or hospital is rarely needed.

This doesn’t mean that the flu is without risks. Each year, thousands of people die from the flu or flu-related complications. Sometimes healthy people experience flu complications, but the groups most at risk are:

●     Children under the age of 5, especially infants

●     Adults over the age of 65

●     People who are obese

●     Pregnant women and women who have recently given birth

●     People with compromised immune systems

●     Residents of care homes

●     People with chronic illnesses like asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease

You should keep an eye out for certain symptoms in case your child needs medical treatment, whether they’re high risk or not. Emergency signs and symptoms of the flu in children include:

●     Difficulty breathing

●     Extreme tiredness

●     Chest pain

●     Dehydration

●     Blue tinge around the lips, nail beds, and hands or feet

●     Severe muscle pain

●     Seizures

Other signs to look out for are refusal to eat or breastfeed, the inability to wake your child up, a stiff neck, and a sharp rise in temperature after it had previously gone down. In babies and toddlers, you should contact a doctor right away if they are very fussy or irritable, can’t settle, or refuse to be touched or held.

Flu Treatment

The first thing you should do is ensure your child is as comfortable as possible. Bed rest and rest in general is very important to recovery so they need to be comfortable enough to get rest. If there’s any nasal congestion, saline nose drops and a humidifier can help alleviate symptoms. Also keep your child well hydrated and try warm liquids to help soothe a sore throat.

Depending on your child’s age and weight, you can give your child over-the-counter (OTS) medications to help with their symptoms. Paracetamol is commonly used to reduce fevers and aches and pains. Avoid giving your child aspirin as it can cause serious complications. If you have any questions about medications for your child, speak to a pharmacist or your GP.

Influenza Treatments from Pharmacy Planet

There is no cure for the flu, but antiviral medications can reduce your symptoms and help you recover faster. One such medication is Relenza and it is suitable for both adults and children over the age of 5. If you or your child has the flu, visit Pharmacy Planet to buy Relenza online in the UK.