The Flu Has Arrived
Precautions and Care
What is the flu?
A Guide for Parents
The flu (influenza) is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs that is caused by
influenza virus. The flu can spread from person to person. Most people with flu are
sick for about a week, but then feel better. However, some people (especially young
children, pregnant women, older people, and people with chronic health problems)
can get very sick and some can die.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Is there medicine to treat the flu?
How does the flu spread?
How long can a sick person spread the flu to others?
How can I protect my child from the flu?
Most people with the flu feel tired and have fever, headache, dry cough, sore throat,
runny or stuffy nose, and sore muscles. Some people, especially children, may also
have stomach problems and diarrhea. Cough can last two or more weeks.
People that have the flu usually cough, sneeze, and have a runny nose. This makes
droplets with virus in them. Other people can get the flu by breathing in these
droplets or getting them in their nose or mouth.
Most healthy adults may be able to spread the flu from 1 day before getting sick
to up to 5 days after getting sick. This can be longer in children and in people who
don’t fight disease as well (people with weakened immune systems).
A flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu. CDC recommends that all
children from the ages of 6 months up to their 5th birthday get a flu vaccine every fall
or winter (children getting a vaccine for the first time need two doses).
•Flu shots can be given to children 6 months and older.
• A nasal-spray vaccine can be given to healthy children 2 years and older
(children under 5 years old who have had wheezing in the past year or any
child with chronic health problems should get the flu shot).
You can protect your child by getting a flu vaccine for yourself too. Also encourage
your child’s close contacts to get a flu vaccine. This is very important if your child is
younger than 5 or has a chronic health problem like asthma (breathing disease) or
diabetes (high blood sugar levels).
There are antiviral drugs for children 1 year and older that can make your child feel
better, be less contagious, and get better sooner. But these drugs need to be approved
by a doctor. They should be started during the first 2 days that your child is sick for
them to work. Your doctor can discuss with you if these drugs are right for your child.
How else can I protect my child against flu?
What Can YOU Do?
1. Take time to get a flu vaccine and get your child vaccinated too.
2. Take everyday steps to prevent the spread of germs. This includes:
•Clean your hands often and cover your coughs and sneezes
•Tell your child to:
- Stay away from people who are sick
- Clean hands often
- Keep hands away from face
- Cover coughs and sneezes to protect others (it’s best to use a tissue. Then, throw
What should I use for hand cleaning?
When can my child go back to school after having the flu?
What can I do if my child gets sick?
What if my child seems very sick?
Can my child go to school if he or she is sick?
Washing hands with soap and water (for as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday
song twice) will help protect your child from germs. When soap and water are not
available, wipes or gels with alcohol in them can be used (the gels should be rubbed
into your hands until they are dry).
Consult your doctor and make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks a lot of fluids.
If your child is older than 2 years, you can buy medicine (over-the-counter) without a
prescription that might make your child feel better. Be careful with these medicines and
follow the instructions on the package. But never give aspirin or medicine that has
aspirin in it to children or teenagers who may have the flu.
Call or take your child to a doctor right away if your child:
•has a high fever or fever that lasts a long time
•has trouble breathing or breathes fast
•has skin that looks blue
•is not drinking enough
• seems confused, will not wake up, does not want to be held, or has seizures
•gets better but then worse again
•has other conditions (like heart or lung disease, diabetes) that get worse
No. Your child should stay home to rest and to avoid giving the flu to other children.
Keep your child home from school until his or her temperature has been normal for
24 hours. Remind your child to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing, to
protect others (you may want to send some tissue and wipes or gels with alcohol in
them to school with your child).
Should my child go to school if other children are sick?
It is not unusual for some children in school to get sick during the winter months. If many children get sick, it is up to you to decide whether to send your child to school. You might want to check with your doctor, especially if your child has other health problems.
For more information about flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES • CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION • SAFER HEALTHIER PEOPLE