Children's Hospital Colorado

Stay Healthy This Flu Season

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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. 

Find a flu clinic in Colorado by using the National Influenza Vaccine Summit's Flu Vaccine Finder

Check out our visitation policies.

Additional resources

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 2017-2018 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, if they have only received one dose of vaccine before, or if it isn’t known whether they received flu vaccine previously.   
  • 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 facts about the 2017-2018 vaccine

  • Significant quantities of influenza vaccine are now 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.
  • For the 2017-2018 season, children should not receive the nasal spray vaccine because it has been shown not to work as well as the flu shot.

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....FluCold
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.

Remember that the best way to protect yourself and your family is to take basic preventive measures such as washing your hands, avoiding sick people and getting your family vaccinated.

Please consider this information before calling or visiting your doctor.

1) Does my child have the flu?

The classic symptoms of the flu are a fever with a cough and a sore throat. If your child has flu symptoms and it is widespread in the community, he or she probably has it. Your child doesn’t need any special tests to reach this conclusion. Currently only patients who need hospitalization are tested.

If your child has a sore throat with a fever and doesn’t develop a cough, he or she may need to be checked for Strep throat.

2) How can I make my child feel better?

The treatment of the flu depends on your child’s main symptoms. To open a blocked nose, use a nasal wash with saline. For a cough, use one to two teaspoons of honey (do not use for children under one year old). Ibuprofen will help a sore throat. To prevent dehydration, encourage extra fluids.

3) My child hurts everywhere. Is that serious?

The flu can cause soreness everywhere: headache, back pain, chest pain and leg pain. To soothe sore muscles, give ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. To prevent stomach irritation, always administer pain medication with food. If pain is severe and lasts more than 90 minutes after taking ibuprofen, your child probably should see a doctor.

4) Does my child need to see a doctor?

For serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, rapid breathing or dehydration, bring your child to the doctor immediately. For non-urgent symptoms such as an earache or sinus pain, go to the doctor within 24 hours. Most healthy children with the flu don’t develop any of these complications and can easily be treated at home.

5) Does my child need Tamiflu?

The CDC recommends Tamiflu for anyone who develops severe symptoms or for high risk children with any flu symptoms. High risk children are those with underlying chronic health problems or healthy children under two years old. Tamiflu is not helpful if more than 48 hours have passed since the start of the flu symptoms, unless your child is hospitalized. If your child is healthy and over age two, he or she should do fine without Tamiflu.

6) How should I treat a fever of 102˚ to 104˚F?

A high fever is over 104˚F. Fevers are not harmful and do not need treatment. In fact, they turn on the body’s immune system and help fight infections. So if your child is sick, having a fever is beneficial.

7) It’s been three days, so why does my child still have a fever?

Fever caused by the flu viruses normally lasts two or three days. If the fever lasts more than three days (72 hours), your child may need to see a doctor. More importantly, if the fever goes away for more than 24 hours, then returns, bring your child to the doctor. He or she may have a secondary bacterial infection such as an ear infection.

8) Can I alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen?

It’s rarely necessary and we don’t recommend it. If your child’s doctor recommends it, however, we suggest you only do it for fevers over 104˚F that do not come down 2 degrees with one medicine alone. To safely alternate fever medication, administer Tylenol every four hours, and alternate with ibuprofen every 6 hours.  To avoid the risk of overdose, do not alternate medicines for more than 24 hours.

  • Do not give aspirin if your child or teen has the flu. 
  • Get information about acetaminophen and ibuprofen drug dosage from your doctor or pharmacist.

9) The fever is gone; why is my child still coughing?

Fever disappears when the immune system starts producing antibodies to fight the virus. The cough normally continues for two or three weeks due to a damaged lining of the throat and windpipe. Recent research showed that honey was more effective at quieting coughs than over-the-counter cough medicines. If coughing is non-stop and interferes with normal activities, however, your child should see a doctor to rule out underlying asthma. 10% of children have asthma and it can be well controlled with asthma medicines.

10) What should I do if my child is vomiting?

Treat with small amounts of clear fluids every 5 to 10 minutes. If your child becomes dehydrated or if isolated vomiting without diarrhea lasts more than 48 hours, your child should see a doctor. If your child only vomits after taking Tamiflu, try to hide the bitter flavor in foods such as chocolate syrup. If vomiting continues, your doctor may need to stop the Tamiflu.

In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people should get vaccinated each year. They are either people who are at high risk of having serious flu complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends annual trivalent seasonal influenza immunization for all individuals, including all children and adolescents, aged 6 months and older during the 2015-2016 influenza season. In addition, special efforts should be made to vaccinate individuals in the following groups:

  • All children (including infants born preterm) who are 6 months of age and older who have conditions that increase the risk of complications from influenza (e.g. children with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression, or neurologic disorders)
  • All household contacts and out-of-home care providers of:
    • Children with high-risk conditions
    • Children aged <5 years, especially infants aged <6 months
    • All health care personnel (HCP)
    • All women who are pregnant, are considering pregnancy, have just delivered, or are breastfeeding during the influenza season.​

Flu vaccine recommendations for the 2017-2018 season

Health care providers have been advised not to use the LAIV Flumist (nasal spray) vaccine for the upcoming 2016-2017 season.  This decision has been made by experts from a vaccine advisory group to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with this decision.  Studies showed that the nasal spray vaccine did not protect against certain strains of the flu virus over the past 3 seasons.  In order to provide children with the best possible protection against flu, the flu shot is likely to provide better protection compared with the nasal spray vaccine.

Get additional information about the 2017-2018 influenza vaccine.

This infographic explains how many doses of the influenza (flu) vaccine a child needs. It is for the 2017-2018 flu season and contains information from Children's Hospital Colorado.

Watch a video for tips on preventing the flu

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