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Recognizing Early Flu Symptoms in Children

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

sick child flu illness
During the winter months, the flu is a dreaded illness–especially with children. While the virus displays similarly in both children and adults, it is highly contagious among children. The reason for this quick spread is because they are still learning to practice proper hygiene and are less likely to wash their hands frequently (particularly after coughing into them or wiping arunny nose) or cover their mouths when sneezing.  As a result, flu outbreaks in schools and daycares are common. Early detection and treatment of the sick child is the most effective way to prevent the virus’ spread as well as lessening the severity of the flu’s symptoms.  So, how can you tell if your child has the flu?

Common Flu Symptoms

While none of these symptoms can be considered a “sure-fire” way to tell if someone is indeed sick with the flu, they can most certainly be relied upon as a sign of illness. If you see these symptoms in children, it’s very likely that they have an illness and are likely contagious.


Fevers are how the body fights infection and bacteriophages. Children have a tendency to run a fever more often than an adult. So a fever in itself does not mean the child has the flu, but if they have a higher temperature that does not subside or respond to fever-reducing medication (such as Motrin and Tylenol), you may be dealing with a viral infection like the flu. 

Ear Pain

When mucus builds up in the sinuses it can cause pressure and pain. Some children can feel that pain in their ears, which is the reason why ear pain is a symptom of the flu (especially when there is no infection in the ear that would cause the pain). 

Body Aches

Children are notoriously challenging when trying to pinpoint the source of any body aches and pains. Their general descriptions of “it hurts” can be maddening in any other circumstances, but if they repeatedly state that they “hurt all over” and that they “don’t feel good”, you may have a case of the flu on your hands. This is particularly true if there is a high fever present that does not respond to fever-reducing medication. 


Congestion is a flu symptom that some people experience to a greater degree than others. If your child has a lot of congestion with the flu, you’ll want to keep an eye out for ear and sinus infections that are caused by mucus buildup that cannot properly drain. To minimize the mucus buildup, make sure you’re running a good humidifier, encourage your child to drink plenty of water, and have her blow her nose frequently. If she’s too young to blow her nose, suctioning with a bulb syringe and using saline drops are also effective.

Sore Throat

Sore throats are another common symptom of the flu. Although strep throat is one of the most common causes of sore throats in kids, the sore throat that comes along with the flu can also be pretty bad. It may not be quite as intense as strep, and it doesn’t usually hurt so bad that it’s difficult to swallow. If you aren’t sure whether your child’s sore throat is caused by strep or the flu, take him to the doctor to be tested.

Loss of Appetite or Decreased Energy

Most of us don’t feel like eating very much when we’re sick, and the same holds true for children. The first signs of illness in children are usually a decrease in appetite. Children will often seem more tired than usual and not eat very well. If you notice your child’s appetite and activity levels have decreased watch for any further signs of flu symptoms. Young children under the age of 5 have a much higher risk of complications of the flu that can be circumvented if caught and properly treated in enough time. 

Visit with a pediatrician today

If you think your child may have whooping cough or could be exposed, contact Dr. John Young and his caring Team today. We have the experience and knowledge to give you and your child the best possible clinical experience. You can reach us at (806) 354-0404 ext. 330 or Contact Us by email for more information about our Services.