With a little knowledge, you’ll learn to recognise the symptoms and make it all better
How to spot influenza, and treat a nosebleed
What is it?
Influenza (or the flu, as it is commonly known) is a viral respiratory infection that affects the nose, throat and lungs.
What are the symptoms?
The flu tends to be a much more severe virus than the common cold, however the symptoms are quite similar.
Common indications of influenza in children include a high fever, headache, sore throat, runny nose, cough and muscle aches. In some cases it can bring on nausea and diarrhoea. Influenza can be contracted quite quickly, but can take weeks for the lethargy and coughing to stop completely.
How do babies get it?
Influenza is highly contagious at specific times of the year. Professor Robert Booy from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead says one of these is winter, as people spend a lot of time inside and closer to each other. “Viruses are spread either by touch or by people sneezing and coughing, causing droplets to fly through the air,” he says. “If someone sneezes or coughs just a metre away, you’re more likely to catch it.”
What can you do?
The best prevention against influenza is keeping up to date with flu vaccinations. “In addition to common-sense measures, like avoiding contact with symptomatic people, vaccination gives considerable protection,” says Robert, however he notes this isn’t a fail-safe method. “Children could still catch it, as someone could sneeze or cough near them.”
If in the end your child has contracted the flu, treating the symptoms can provide relief. Easing congestion with saline drops as well as regular doses of paracetamol and plenty of rest should bring comfort.
When to see your GP
Children get lots of colds every year, but it’s advisable to see a doctor if your little one refuses fluids or is vomiting frequently.
“If there are symptoms of lethargy or high fever, or if a runny nose or cough are worse than usual, parents should trust their instincts and take their child to see their GP,” Robert says.