Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, about 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of flu-related complications.
At Children’s National Hospital, we take the flu very seriously, which is why we screen all inpatient-area visitors at our Welcome Desk to protect our patients. As part of our screening, we will ask if you’ve been sick with any of the following symptoms:
- Fever, chills, body aches and/or fatigue (very tired)
- Cough, stuffy/runny nose or sore throat
If you or anyone in your party has been sick with any of the above symptoms in the last five days, we ask that you do not visit a child in an inpatient area. If you or anyone in your party has been sick, but must accompany a child to go up to an inpatient unit, we will ask you to wear a mask and will ask you more questions on the unit.
Protecting Your Family from the Flu
The flu vaccine is an effective way to prevent or reduce the severity of flu symptoms. Learn more about the flu and the flu vaccine from our experts:
If you still have questions about the flu or flu vaccine after reading our additional resources below, consult with your child's doctor. You can also submit questions to Rise and Shine, our parenting advice site, and look for an answer from one of our experts in the coming weeks.
Getting the Flu Vaccine
Who should get vaccinated?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends certain individuals get a yearly influenza vaccine. This provides the best protection throughout the flu season, which typically ends in early spring.
While children younger than 6 months old are too young to get the influenza vaccine, the best way to protect them is to make sure other people in their families get their flu shots. Plan to get your flu vaccines early, especially if you or your children are part of one of the following groups:
- Pregnant women
- Children 6 months and older; consult a pediatrician to determine if your child requires two doses of influenza vaccine given at least 28 days apart
- Anyone 6 months or older with a chronic health problem such as asthma, kidney disorders, heart disease, cancer or an impaired immune system
- Adults 50 or older who may be at a higher risk of getting flu complications
If you have questions, contact your child's primary care physician. For more information, visit the CDC website.
Flu Prevention Tips
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is by getting yearly vaccines (unless you or your child's doctor directs otherwise). The influenza vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu.
Avoid close contact
Prevent your child from having close contact with sick people (hugging, kissing). Symptoms of flu include: fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting or diarrhea.
Cover your cough or sneeze
When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with a tissue and throw it in the trash after use. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hand.
Wash your hands
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.
Avoid crowded areas
Do not take children around large crowds when flu is in your community (mall, movies, etc.).
Don't share germs
Do not allow your child to share anything that goes into his/her mouth (drinking straws and cups).
Disinfect your home
If someone in your house has the flu, use a household disinfectant to clean surfaces.
Keep germs away from others
If your child develops flu-like symptoms, keep him/her home from school or daycare. Children should stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone without using fever reduction medications. A fever is defined as 100°F or 37.8°C.
When Your Child is Hospitalized for the Flu
Maintain your own good health
- Consider getting a flu shot.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer frequently.
- Hand sanitizing stations are located throughout the hospital. If you cannot find a sink or sanitizer, ask a staff member for help.
Don't be alarmed by staff wearing masks
Your child's doctors, nurses and other caregivers may wear yellow gowns and masks when examining your child. They must wear these items to protect themselves from getting the flu and from spreading it to other patients.
Other things to consider
- Avoid bringing young siblings of your child to visit while in the hospital.
- Relatives that do not live with the child or who have not been in recent contact could get the flu if they visit. Discuss this with family members before allowing them to visit.
To protect our patients and staff, we ask you to:
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with a tissue and throw it in the trash after use. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hand.
- Wash or sanitize your hands when entering and leaving your child's room.
- Remember that it is OK to remind your child's caregivers to wash their hands before examining your child.
- Notify your child's caregiver immediately if you develop the following symptoms: fever, headache, chills and/or fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.