Protect Your Family Against the Flu

Children's Hospital Colorado wants to help you protect your children and family from the flu. Educate yourself and encourage your friends and family to understand the latest information on the flu this year. 

What is the flu?

Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. The flu is often confused with the common cold, but flu symptoms tend to develop quickly and are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and congestion of a cold.

Flu symptoms can include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting - most common in young children

Learn more about the flu from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 2015-2016 flu season

Seasonal influenza refers to many different strains of an influenza virus. Flu A and Flu B are the strains that infect humans. The flu vaccine covers those strains that are predicted to be the main strains circulating for that season. Now all flu shots will contain either three or four strains. 

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Children between the ages of 6 months and 9 years will need two doses of this year's influenza vaccine 4 weeks apart, if they have never received a flu shot before, or if it isn’t known whether they received flu vaccine previously.  
  • Children in this age group who received at least one dose previously will require only one dose of the 2015-2016 vaccine.  
  • All children 9 years of age and older only need one dose. 

Talk with your primary care physician's office about your child receiving this seasonal vaccination.

For more information, please call Children's Hospital Colorado Flu Hotline: 720-777-4FLU (4358).

Getting your flu vaccine

Every adult and child older than 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine. Be sure to consult with your child's doctor about the flu vaccine. Also learn who is a top priority for the vaccine this season, how the vaccine works, side effects and other considerations.

Contact your doctor about getting vaccinated, or find a flu clinic near you. 

Quick fact about the 2015-2016 vaccine

  • Significant quantities of influenza vaccine are available in the United States.
  • Vaccine is now available in the community. Getting your influenza vaccination in September is not too early and protection will last for the whole season!
  • The flu vaccine is available in two forms: the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine.
  • The flu shot is approved for children 6 months of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
  • The nasal spray vaccine is approved for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Learn about the dangers of the flu by watching this PSA

How can I prevent the flu?

  • Get vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults and children older than 6 months receive a flu shot.
  • Hand washing is one of the most important things you can do! Learn why and what is the best way to wash up!
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and, when you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick to prevent others from catching your illness. If possible, stay home from work, school, or public places until at least 24 hours after a fever has ceased without the use of fever-reducing medications. (A fever is defined as 100ºF or 37.8ºC.)
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you don't have a tissue, then cough or sneeze into your sleeve. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing, washing with soap and water, or with alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid touching your face often because germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

Is it a cold, or the flu?

See the diagram below for help determining if your child has a cold or the flu.

Questions to ask concerning.... Flu Cold
Was your child's onset of illness sudden gradual
Does your child have a high fever lower fever
Is your child's fatigue level severe mild
Is your child's cough severe moderate
Is your child's head achy headache-free
Is your child's appetite decreased decreased
Are your child's muscles achy fine
Does your child have chills no chills

If most of your answers fall into the first category, then your child likely has the flu.
If most of your answers fall into the second category, then your child likely has a cold.
Unless they're severe, flu symptoms are treated the same as cold symptoms.

What do I do if my child has flu symptoms?

If you suspect your child may have influenza, call your pediatrician or primary care provider for advice. If your child has flu-like symptoms and is only mildly ill, it is best to care for him or her at home and limit contact with others. If you think your child has a viral infection, make sure they are getting plenty of fluids. Do not give your child aspirin or aspirin-containing products (Pepto-Bismol, for example). Treat their fever with Tylenol or Motrin. Also, learn the things that can help your child feel better.

If your child exhibits more severe symptoms, contact your health care provider or seek urgent care or emergency care. See all of Children's Hospital Colorado Network of Care locations.

If you have questions about the flu you can also call the Colorado Health Information hotline at 1-877-462-2911.

When do I call my doctor?

If your child is experiencing influenza symptoms, it’s not always necessary to see or call your doctor. Below are some guidelines to help you decide when to call your family physician.

Call your child's doctor now (night or day) if:

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Breathing becomes difficult or fast
  • Dehydration occurs (no urine in 12 hours, dry mouth, no tears)
  • Your child has bluish skin color
  • Your child is not waking up or not interacting
  • Your child is being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash occurs

Call your child's doctor during the day if:

  • Your think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child is considered high risk and has flu symptoms
  • Earache or sinus pain occurs
  • Fever lasts more than 3 days
  • Cough lasts more than 3 weeks
  • Your child becomes worse

Find a physician for your child

Your child’s doctor should be your primary resource for answers to your flu questions. If you do not have a doctor for your child, contact Children's Hospital Colorado ParentSmart HealthLine at 720-777-0123 or online for help finding a doctor and for answers to your general questions about the flu.