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Flu in Children (Childhood Influenza)

Influenza (Flu) in Children Facts

Influenza is an acute infection caused by any of three types of influenza viruses (A, B, or C). Type A strains are associated with the most severe disease. Many people confuse influenza or flu with the common cold. They are different. The common cold can be caused be a variety of viruses that infect the upper respiratory system (nose, mouth, and throat). Flu is caused by influenza virus and is often more severe and more dangerous than a cold, particularly for children under 5 years of age. Some children die from flu every year.

In addition, the viruses that cause the flu are different from those that cause gastroenteritis (often referred to as "stomach flu"), which has symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Influenza usually spreads locally from person to person during flu season. This is referred to as epidemic flu. Because there is very little preexisting immunity, occasionally a very different strain emerges and spreads rapidly worldwide. This is known as pandemic flu. For example, in 2009, a new type A strain emerged called H1N1. Because there was little immunity in the human population to the H1N1 strain, it had the ability to spread easily from person to person worldwide and sicken even more people than a usual seasonal strain. In July 2009, a worldwide pandemic of H1N1 was declared, but this was over in August 2010.

  • Influenza is an acute infection of the airway tract in the nose and throat that can sometimes spread into the lungs. Flu in adults is a frequent cause of acute respiratory illness. Flu, however, affects people of all ages. Children are among the groups most at risk for developing flu and its complications and are more likely to spread the infection to others.

Flu season (a sharp increase in reported cases) usually begins in late fall and early winter, and cases usually spread widely. The peak season for the flu in the northern hemisphere is from November through March, although cases can be seen all year long.

What Causes Flu in Children?

The flu is caused by one of three types of influenza viruses. Types A and B are responsible for the yearly flu epidemics, and type C causes sporadic illness. Type A is further divided into different subtypes based on the chemical structure of the virus.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015
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