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Influenza or “flu” is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs) that can cause mild to severe illness, and can result in complications that can lead to hospitalization or even death, especially in children. Cold weather can increase the chances of flu spreading so the dip in Florida temperatures is a concern. That's because the outer membranes of the influenza virus are made primarily of molecules known as lipids. The cooler weather allows those lipids to form into a gel and travel easier form person to person.
Approximately 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized due to flu each year — that’s enough children to fill 870 average American classrooms. Infants and toddlers are hospitalized at rates similar to elderly people and at higher rates than people of all other ages. That's why it's so important to know the symptoms and seek medical attention if you think your child has the flu.
Common Symptoms of the Flu
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle or body aches
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
If any of these symptoms sound like you or your child, head to your closest Centra Care for a quick influenza test. This test can tell within minutes if you've got the flu.
Most people with flu will recover without complications. However, keep an eye out for these warning signs which could indicate the need for more immediate medical attention:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
How long are you contagious?
A person is typically contagious 24 hours before flu symptoms develop, which means that people are often unknowingly spreading illness before they even realize they are sick. They remain infectious for up to five to seven days after symptoms first appear. So even if your child is feeling better, they can still be spreading the influenza virus to others. It is also believed that children can remain infectious longer, until all of their symptoms resolve.