The flu virus family has three different types (A/B/C). The virus can change quickly and each year different types come through a community. For this reason, many people will get it multiple times in their life. It causes the same symptoms in children though it may be harder to understand what's happening since they can't always describe the symptoms. Kids may have more trouble with fevers and stomach upset than adults. Most of the time flu symptoms last two or three days. Longer symptoms should prompt a check-up at your doctor's office. Colds cause some of these symptoms, but usually cold fevers are lower and children with colds are not as tired and miserable as those with flu. Anyone with trouble breathing should also be seen. Anti-flu medicines exist and may be helpful if given in the first two days of illness.
Children 6 months to 5 years old or those with a chronic disease are at high risk for serious illness from influenza and should receive a flu shot. The vaccine is quite effective. Because flu can change as I mentioned, it doesn't always provide 100 percent protection. However, what most people don't realize is that flu can cause other rare problems such as pneumonia or brain infections. The vaccine also helps prevent against these serious manifestations. Sometimes other illnesses may mimic the flu and have parents thinking the vaccine didn't help. I always tell my patients we know kids do much better in flu season if they get the shot.