The U.S. is currently facing its worst ever influenza (flu) outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 53 children have reportedly
lost their lives. While this health crisis has happened far away from us, we should not be complacent, because flu outbreaks of varying strains can strike any time. And parents must be aware of dangerous flu symptoms in their kids.
When a flu outbreak hits, the most vulnerable sections of any community are children and the elderly. This is because their immune systems are weak in comparison to older kids or younger adults.
Because of this, parents must know how to be prepared if their child gets the flu. Most importantly, they should know when to rush their kid to the doctor before the illness can become potentially fatal.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to identify the kind of flu a child might be suffering from. That’s because there are three major strains of flu, each with its own symptoms and dangers.
Dangerous flu symptoms depend on the strain
Even experts agree that it can be difficult for parents to identify which flu strain has attacked their child.
“Every once in a while, even among healthy children, this influenza strain and others can make a person very, very sick, really fast. It’s deceptive,” Dr William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, U.S., told The New York Times
Typically, flu — which is a communicable respiratory disease — comes from three types of flu viruses.
As per WebMD
, these include type A, B and C.
- Type A. This type of virus mostly affects birds and animals. Also, type A flu virus is spread by those already affected and may be always present on the surfaces that they touch. This is a constantly changing virus and epidemics are often due to this particular strain.
- Type B. This causes the flu in most adults and children. Persons affected by type B flu virus may be seen sniffling, and coughing. They may have body aches and high fevers. All of these are dangerous flu symptoms and may indicate that the affected needs immediate medical attention.
- Type C. This is a milder strain of flu. You may not notice the same dangerous flu symptoms if a person is affected by the type C flu virus. This strain is not implicated in epidemics.
Many parents often confuse the dangerous flu symptoms with those of regular cold and cough. So let’s quickly understand the differences between the two so you can identify if your child has influenza or is suffering from cold and cough.
Differences between symptoms of flu and cold
As per the CDC, the primary difference between flu and common cold is that they are caused by different viruses.
“Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.
“In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu.
“People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalisations
,” the apex agency explains
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention lists the common difference between the symptoms of flu and common cold. | Image courtesy: CDC
What you must know is if your child has a common cold, it will not be accompanied by a serious medical condition.
However, in the case of flu, if symptoms are ignored and your child’s health is not carefully monitored, the outcome could very well be fatal.
7 dangerous flu symptoms you must watch out for
Some dangerous flu symptoms can often give away information that your child’s condition is rapidly taking a turn for the worst. So it is crucial for every parent to monitor their children closely, especially if they are below the age of five.
Keep an eye out for these dangerous flu symptoms in children:
- Your child is breathing fast or has trouble breathing at all.
- His skin has taken on a bluish hue.
- He refuses to drink liquids, even water.
- He remains inactive and barely speaks with anybody.
- Your baby or toddler is irritable and doesn’t want to be held for comfort.
- Symptoms of flu (coughing, sneezing, aches) go down, but fever remains constant and surges in some cases.
- The fever is accompanied by a rash.
If you spot any of these, know that they are dangerous flu symptoms and can lead to other fatal medical problems such as pneumonia and secondary bacterial infections.
The New York Times warns, “Children with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, heart conditions or seizures are also at increased risk for developing influenza-related complications, and the illness can exacerbate their underlying medical problems.”
Therefore, parents must always be on the lookout for these symptoms and seek prompt medical support. You must pay even closer attention to babies and toddlers and ensure that all children are getting enough liquids through the day.
In the case of flu, the symptoms can turn fatal within a matter of 48 hours. So we suggest you pay very close attention to your children if you suspect they have the flu.
Sources: CDC, The New York Times