"Take 3" Actions to Fight the Flu
Flu Symptom Check List
What is the flu?
Influenza (the flu) is an infection of the nose,
throat and lungs caused by influenza viruses
that are constantly changing. Flu causes
illness, hospital stays and deaths in the United
States each year. Flu can be very dangerous
for children. Each year about 20,000 children
younger than 5 years old are hospitalized from
flu complications, like pneumonia.
How serious is the flu?
Flu illness can vary from mild to severe. Flu can
be especially dangerous for young children and
children of any age who have certain long term
health conditions, including asthma (even mild
or controlled), neurological conditions, chronic
lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders,
endocrine disorders (such as diabetes), and
weakened immune systems due to disease or
medication. Children with these conditions, and
those receiving long-term aspirin therapy, can
have more severe illness from the flu.
How does the flu spread?
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread
mainly by droplets made when people with the
flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can
land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get the flu
by touching something that has flu virus on it
and then touching their own mouth, eyes or
What are the symptoms of flu?
Symptoms of flu can include fever, cough, sore
throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache,
chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting
and diarrhea. Some people with flu will not
have a fever.
How long can a sick person spread the flu?
People with the flu may infect others from 1 day
before getting sick to 5-7 days after. Children
and people with weakened immune systems
can shed virus for longer, and might still be
contagious past 7 days, especially if they still
Can my child go to school, daycare or camp
if he or she is sick?
No. Your child should stay home to rest and to
avoid giving the flu to other children or to
When can my child go back to school after
having the flu?
Keep your child home until at least 24 hours
after their fever is gone, without using feverreducing
medications, like acetaminophen
(Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil). A fever
is defined as 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
Protect Your Child
How can I protect my child against flu?
The first and most important thing to do is to get
flu vaccine for your child, yourself, and everyone
else in your household every year. Get the
vaccine as soon as it is available.
- Vaccination is recommended for everyone 6
months and older.
- It's especially important that young children and
children with certain health conditions (see at left)
- It's very important for parents, grandparents,
teachers and caregivers to get vaccinated.
- Everyone caring for infants under 6 months (who
are too young to be vaccinated) should be
vaccinated if possible. Vaccinating pregnant
women can offer some protection to the baby
during pregnancy and after birth.
About Flu Vaccine
What kinds of flu vaccine are there?
There are two kinds of flu vaccine:
- Inactivated (killed) flu vaccine, the "flu
shot," is given by injection with a needle.
- Live, attenuated (weakened) flu vaccine is
sprayed into the nostrils.
The kind of vaccine your child will get depends
on their age and health. You child may be
eligible to receive either kind of flu vaccine.
Every time your child receives vaccine, your
healthcare provider will ask questions which
will help determine whether the child should
receive vaccine that day, and what kind of
vaccine your child should get.
Are there any risks from flu vaccine?
Vaccine reactions, if they occur, are usually
mild and can include soreness, redness and
swelling where the shot is given, or runny
nose after getting the nasal spray. Some
people have experienced fever, body aches,
headache and fatigue. These reactions
usually begin soon after the vaccine is given,
and last 1-2 days.
A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly
cause more serious problems, such as severe
allergic reactions. The risk of a vaccine
causing serious harm is extremely small.
Life threatening allergic reactions from vaccines
are very rare. If they do occur, it is
usually within a few minutes to a few hours
after the vaccination.
More detailed information about flu vaccine is
available at www.immunize.org/vis. At this site
you will find Vaccine Information Statements
about inactivated and live influenza vaccines
(the shot and the nasal spray) designed to
educate and inform in many languages.
Is influenza vaccine effective?
Yes. While no vaccine is 100% effective,
influenza vaccine is the best protection against
getting the flu.
Influenza vaccine tends to be most effective in
people who are younger and healthy. It takes
about two weeks after vaccination to protect
against flu, so vaccination does not protect
immediately. Also, flu viruses are always
changing, so the vaccine needs to be updated
every year, before flu season starts. When the
vaccine isn't a good match with flu viruses that
are circulating, it offers less protection.
People who get flu vaccine are much less
likely to get the flu than those who don't get
vaccine, and if vaccinated people get sick
with the flu their illness is not as severe.
Other Steps to Take
What else can I do to protect my child?
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
Throw the tissue in the trash after use.
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Wash hands often with soap and water.
- Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and
water are not available.
- Contact your healthcare provider if your
child gets sick, especially if the child is very
young (under 5) or has long-term health
- Seek emergency care if your child has
trouble breathing, fast breathing, turns
bluish or gray, has severe or persistent
vomiting, has trouble waking up, or doesn't
Much more information is available at: