Flu: How it affects infants and young children?

Infants and children below 2 years old face the highest risk for flu complications. It is important to note that infants are more likely to become seriously sick and require hospitalization than the older children.

Why do infants become sick from the flu?

Infants below the age of 2 years old are more likely to acquire the flu since their immune system has not fully developed. There is also difficulty in feeding due to the congestion that can result to dehydration. Take note that productive coughing can make it hard for infants and the risk for pneumonia is high.

Effects in young children

The signs and symptoms of the condition in infants include fever, congestion, cough and fussiness. It is vital to consult a doctor as soon as possible if the child:

  • Appears fussy or will not play or smile for more than 4 hours

    Always bear in that children over 6 months old must be given the yearly flu shot to prevent the flu.

  • Has difficulty with feeding or refuses to drink
  • Has frequent coughing episodes
  • Has difficulty breathing or there is a whistle-like sound or wheezing while breathing
  • Has persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Has fever higher 100.3 degrees F if below 2 months of age
  • Has lack of tears when crying or has no soiled diapers in 8 hours

These are indications of serious complications and must be carefully discussed with a doctor right away. If the child does not have these serious indications but has symptoms of the flu, consult a doctor during the office hours. The doctor will decide if the child needs to be checked and tested for the respiratory condition.

Antiviral medications might be needed for the child to minimize the risk for serious illness and other potential complications. In case the child develops the flu, he/she must be closely monitored for any changes. Infants might start out with a mild case but can become very sick rapidly.

If the child has been sick, appears to recover for 1-2 days and abruptly becomes sick, set an appointment with a doctor. This is an indication of a secondary infection that might be pneumonia, bronchitis or another form of complication of the flu.

Preventive measures

Preventing the flu is better than treating one. Always bear in that children over 6 months old must be given the yearly flu shot to prevent the flu. The initial year that the child is vaccinated is followed by 2 vaccines given 4 weeks apart.

Infants below 6 months could not be given a flu shot. Nevertheless, there are still various ways to protect them against the flu. If the mother is pregnant during the flu season, a flu shot is recommended before the child is born. Take note that the flu vaccine is safe to be used during pregnancy and has been shown to protect the infant from the flu or up to 6 months after he/she was born.

Breastfeeding is also another way to protect the infant from the flu. Remember that breastmilk contains antibodies that strengthen the immune system of the infant and provides protection while his/her body is developing.


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