The symptoms of influenza in children usually appear about three days after exposure to the virus, and tend to show up abruptly. The most common signs include a high fever, chills, headache, and severe cough. Some children also suffer from stomach pain when they get the flu, usually accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting. It is sometimes difficult to observe symptoms in young children, especially babies, but the most commonly noticed symptoms include loss of appetite, irritability, and fatigue.
Some classic signs of influenza in children may be similar to those of the common cold, which makes them difficult to distinguish from one another. For example, a sore throat and resulting dry cough are both common, and may last a couple weeks. On the other hand, most children also suffer from a high grade fever, sometimes up to 104°F (40°C). Additionally, a headache, muscle aches, chills, and extreme fatigue are also often present in children with influenza, usually making it obvious that the illness is more than just a cold.
There are other symptoms of influenza that some children get, such as stomach pain. This issue is usually accompanied by vomiting, and sometimes diarrhea, often leading to dehydration if these symptoms continue. While not every child gets these signs, these symptoms can help parents distinguish influenza in children from a cold or upper respiratory infection like bronchitis or pneumonia.
Influenza is usually rare in infants under six months of age, which is why the flu shot is not usually given until this age. Even when babies do get the flu, they usually do not display many symptoms, which means that it often goes undiagnosed. The main signs of influenza in babies include extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, and decreased circulation, often resulting in cold hands and feet. Irritability may also be present, resulting in excessive crying for no apparent reason.
While it is a good idea for any child infected with this virus to see a doctor, there are some symptoms of influenza in children that demand immediate medical attention. For example, if the high grade fever does not decrease after three days despite the proper dosage of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, a doctor should be consulted. Also, if discharge from the nose is yellow and thick, lasts for nearly two weeks, or starts coming from the eyes, as well, it is important to talk to a doctor. Another worrisome symptom of influenza in children is lack of interest in drinking fluids, as well as continued vomiting or diarrhea, as dehydration may result.