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When to Bring Your Child Into the Emergency Room for Flu

Posted on November 14, 2023
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Flu season can be a challenging time for parents. While flu viruses are fairly common, it can take a severe turn in children. Knowing when to bring your child to the emergency room for the flu can make a difference between recovery and death. 

At Families Fighting Flu, our mission is to educate families about the seriousness of influenza and the vital importance of annual vaccination. Below, we highlight flu symptoms that may indicate a more severe condition and emphasize the importance of seeking medical attention promptly when you suspect something is wrong with your child.

Understanding Common Flu Symptoms

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. While it often presents as a mild illness, it can lead to serious complications and side effects, particularly in children whose immune systems and bodies are not as adept at protecting them. The flu’s symptoms can vary by person, but some symptoms may be indicative of a more severe issue beyond the regular coughing and sneezing of a common cold.

Key Flu Symptoms to Watch Out For in Children

Flu symptoms, like fever, chills, cough, and congestion, can resemble those in adults and children, but children’s symptoms can vary greatly. Additionally, their close contact at school can lead to the spread of potentially serious illness before it’s identified. The following are some key flu symptoms that may show your child’s illness has escalated to the point of requiring an ER visit.

  • High Fever: A high fever, especially in young children, can be a sign of severe flu. If your child’s temperature rises above 104 degrees, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Difficulty Breathing: If your child is having trouble breathing, such as rapid or labored breathing, it’s time to see a doctor right away. Breathing difficulties can be a sign of pneumonia, a potentially severe complication of the flu.
  • Severe Dehydration: Flu can cause severe fluid loss through fever, sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Dehydration can be dangerous, so be alert for signs like dry mouth, sunken eyes, and reduced urination.
  • Bluish Skin Color: Bluish lips, face, or extremities are an emergency warning sign that could indicate a lack of oxygen in the blood and require immediate medical attention.
  • Chest or Abdominal Pain: If your child experiences severe chest or abdominal pain, it could be a sign of complications like pneumonia, which is more common in children with the flu.
  • Confusion or Dizziness: Sudden confusion, difficulty waking up, or extreme irritability can be indicative of severe illness. Don’t hesitate to get help in such cases.
  • Rash: Some strains of the flu can cause skin rashes, which may signal a more severe condition. Seek medical advice if you notice a rash.

Why Quick Action is Important for Child Flu Symptoms

The flu can escalate rapidly, especially in young children. Delaying medical care can lead to serious complications, including bacterial infections, pneumonia, and even hospitalization. Prompt action is crucial to prevent these severe outcomes.

Steps to Take If You’re Concerned About Symptoms Worsening

If you’re concerned that your child’s flu symptoms are worsening, it’s important to take immediate action. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Consult a Healthcare Professional: If you notice any of the concerning symptoms mentioned above, don’t wait. Contact your child’s healthcare provider for guidance. A physician will be able to appropriately test your child and determine if they need further treatment or monitoring.
  2. Seek Emergency Care: If your child’s symptoms are severe, particularly breathing difficulties or bluish skin color, head to the nearest emergency room immediately. Call ahead, if possible, to let them know you’re on your way.
  3. Prevent the Spread: While waiting for medical assistance, keep your child isolated to prevent the spread of the flu to others. Encourage frequent handwashing and mask-wearing if possible.

Flu prevention is vital, and recognizing the signs of severe illness can save your child’s life. Stay vigilant and do not hesitate to seek medical help if you suspect something is wrong. 

While the key to managing flu complications lies in early intervention, don’t forget that the best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. Annual vaccination not only reduces the risk of infection but also helps prevent severe complications and hospitalizations. Find out more about the steps you can take to prevent the flu with vaccination, testing, and treatment in this blog.

The flu can be a serious illness, but by taking proactive steps like getting an annual flu vaccination, practicing good hygiene habits, and staying informed, you can help protect your kids and prevent the spread of the virus. 

Learn More About Families Fighting Flu

Families Fighting Flu educates about the seriousness of influenza and the importance of annual vaccination so that no one suffers serious flu complications or death. Learn more about our mission and resources here so that you can empower your family to stay healthy this season.

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