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Signs of the Flu in a Toddler

By Heather Vale ; Updated August 14, 2017

As a parent, you are naturally concerned when your toddler gets sick during flu season, but you may not be sure if your child has flu or something else. Flu season typically begins in the fall and peaks from late December through March. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under the age of two are most at risk of experiencing complications from the flu. Knowing what to watch for during flu season can help you get your child the treatment he may need. (see reference #1)

Sudden Fever, Fatigue and Aches

The Family Practice Notebook says flu typically comes on quickly with a high fever and aches. One day your child is fine, and the next she has a high temperature and feels terrible. Fever can go as high as 104 degrees, or 40 degrees Celsius. Your child experiences chills as her fever climbs, and she has no energy. Headaches are common and most severe during the first two days of the illness. Severe muscle aches, especially during the first three days, are also common. (see reference #2)

Respiratory Symptoms

With the flu, fever and aches come first, followed by respiratory symptoms, including a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat, a dry cough and chest discomfort. While respiratory symptoms can also be a sign of a cold, they are usually more severe with flu. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that, as the illness progresses, the symptoms worsen. (see reference #2 & #3)

Digestive Upset

When your toddler has the flu, you may find that he isn’t eating as much as usual, because his appetite is diminished. A sore throat and swollen glands can make eating even more difficult. He can also experience nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. (see reference #3) This increases the likelihood that he’ll be irritable and feel weaker than normal.

Duration and Complications

The acute symptoms of flu, including fever, are usually gone after five days. However, the fatigue and a dry non-productive cough can continue for three weeks or more. While it may seem like an illness as common as flu might not be much to worry about, influenza in young children can lead to complications, including ear infections, sinus infections or even pneumonia. The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that children with chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, cancer or a weakened immune system, are at increased risk of complications. (see references #2 & #3)

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