Flu symptoms in babies: When to see a doctor

Because newborns' immune systems aren't fully formed, influenza can be dangerous. Here's when to seek medical attention for a baby with flu.

Flu is a respiratory illness that should be taken seriously by parents of babies, toddlers, and young children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies under six months of age have the highest risk of hospitalisation and the highest rates of flu fatality. This is partly because their immune systems haven’t fully grown, and partly because they’re too young to receive a flu shot.

Meanwhile, children under five are more likely to suffer from flu-related complications such as pneumonia and dehydration. Because flu is so prevalent around this time of year, it is critical to diagnose flu symptoms in infants quickly and seek appropriate treatment. Here’s what you should know.

Symptoms of flu in babies

In babies, influenza frequently looks like a nasty cold, with a high temperature (and perhaps diarrhoea or vomiting) that appears quickly. Typical flu symptoms in babies include:

  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • A fever (over 38 degrees celcius)
  • Shakes or chills
  • Throat discomfort

When should you take your baby to the doctor?

If your baby develops a fever, take them to the doctor right away. A quick test of nasal secretions can establish the presence of influenza. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral to speed up healing and prevent complications.

Also, consult your doctor right away if your infant exhibits any of the following concerning symptoms:

  • Breathing problems
  • Rapid breathing
  • A fever
  • Face or lips that are flushed
  • Dehydration symptoms
  • Excessive fussiness
  • Pulling in the ribs while breathing
  • Seizures
  • Fever or cough that subsides then reappears and worsens

A word on pneumonia

Pneumonia is one of the most common flu complications, and it occurs when a flu virus migrates into the lungs from the nose and throat or when a bacterial infection develops. Viral pneumonia is treated with supportive treatments, but bacterial pneumonia necessitates antibiotics.

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