Influenza – What You Need to Know

February 3, 2023

Influenza is a common viral infection.

Every year there are outbreaks of influenza with seasonal patterns – usually late fall and winter. Pinecone thought it would be important to share some information about the virus given the literal explosion of cases seen right now.

Influenza spreads through sneezing, coughing, talking, touching an infected person, close proximity with an infected person or touching contaminated objects.

This year the influenza A strain that is causing so many emergency department visits has been causing an oddly uniform pattern of symptoms:

  • 7 days of fever!!!
  • Aches and pains (including head and neck)
  • Mild respiratory symptoms (runny nose, cough, shortness of breath) in some children.
  • Mild gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea) in some children

A small percentage of children will develop more severe symptoms:

  • Viral pneumonia (particularly in young children)
  • Viral meningitis
  • Myocarditis (heart inflammation from influenza)

The diagnosis is made clinically – meaning your pediatrician will ask you questions and that should be enough to suspect influenza without specialized testing.

Most influenza will resolve spontaneously without intervention or the need for hospital based support (like oxygen or IV fluids).

Since influenza is viral antibiotics will not help shorten the duration of symptoms or decrease the severity. It is however common to see secondary bacterial infections with influenza, like otitis (ear infections) or pneumonia. Cough and abdominal pain commonly persist for a few weeks after the active infection.

When to seek medical care:

  •  Immediately for difficulty breathing at rest (if the child has fever, start by treating with acetaminophen / ibuprofen).
  • Dehydration (babies should urinate over 4x per day, teens down to twice a day can be fine).
  • Prolonged symptoms (over a week if everything else is going ok).
  • If your child is very young (under 3 months of age) or has pre-existing medical conditions like cerebral palsy, sickle cell anemia, is immunocompromised / immunosuppressed or dependent on medical technology like a tracheostomy.
  • If you have concerns, particularly if your child’s symptoms seem atypical.
  • The height of the fever and whether or not it responds to fever medications has nothing to do with how concerning your child’s illness is.

How to access care:

As always, you can call the clinic during business hours 587-885-2767 if you’re looking for some guidance – we may be limited in what kind of advice we can provide over the phone.

The information contained in this article does not replace the advice of your health-care professional. Use your judgment in applying any information found online.

Your care team at Pinecone Pediatrics.

Pinecone Pediatrics is a specialty practice composed of Community Pediatricians, subspecialty trained Pediatricians, a Nurse Practitionner and a provisional psychologist dedicated to medical, mental health, minor injury, acute illness, behavioral, and developmental issues of children 0-18 years of age in Calgary and the surrounding areas.
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