This year’s flu season is starting early.

Here’s what parents should keep in mind.

By Leisha Andersen, MD, MPH - November 16, 2022

This year’s flu season is starting early.

Here’s what parents should keep in mind.

My children love youth sports–and we especially admire triple threat athletes. You know–like a basketball player who can shoot, dribble, and pass. The whole package.

Unfortunately, the triple threat we pediatricians are hearing about now isn’t admirable or exciting. The infectious triple threat refers to three diseases that are currently circulating in the US: 

(1) COVID-19

(2) RSV, and 

(3) influenza (or flu)

The infectious triple threat is taking over our communities. These diseases can each occur separately–but unfortunately a person can also get more than one triple threat infection at the same time. By now, you’re probably familiar with COVID-19 and RSV. But what about the flu?

What is the flu?

The flu, or influenza, is a viral infection caused by one of 2 organisms: either influenza A or influenza B. There are many subtypes of influenza A and B, so people may also refer to flu with names such as H1N1 or H3N2. [Pro tip: People frequently shorten the word influenza to “flu”, but keep in mind that the “flu” caused by influenza is different from the “stomach flu” that primarily causes abdominal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea.]


What is the flu ?

Who gets the flu?

During a typical year, the flu infects 20-30% of healthy children and leads to hospitalization of up to 20,000 children under age 5. 

The highest risk of severe flu infection occurs in: 

  • children under age 5

  • people with underlying medical conditions

  • people who are not vaccinated for flu 

How is the flu spread?

The flu spreads through droplets that move through the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Droplets can travel up to 6 feet through the air before falling to the ground. Droplets can also infect the surfaces they land on and get passed from person to person that way.

What are flu signs and symptoms?

Flu leads to respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) symptoms and systemic (all over the body) symptoms. Severe complications can include pneumonia, worsening of asthma, myocarditis (heart inflammation), and even death. Common symptoms of the flu include: 

  • sudden fever and chills

  • headache

  • body aches

  • tiredness

  • stuffy or runny nose

  • cough

  • sore throat

  • stomach pain

  • nausea/vomiting/diarrhea 

How can you avoid the flu?

Flu rates were very low during the pandemic. Now that we’re out and about again, here are a few tips to try to avoid the flu this winter: 

  • Avoid being around sick people (to the best of your ability)

  • Wash your hands frequently 

  • Clean surfaces regularly if they may be infected by influenza droplets 

  • Teach your kids to cover their mouth properly if they need to cough or sneeze

  • Stay at home when you are sick 

  • Get a flu shot to reduce your chances of flu infection

(The vaccine doesn’t prevent all cases of influenza, but it offers protection against severe, life-threatening disease. In fact, a 2022 study showed the flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of severe life-threatening influenza by 75%.) 

What if your child gets the flu?

If you or your child becomes sick with flu symptoms:

  • Provide supportive care–encourage drinking lots of fluids and resting

  • Ask your healthcare provider about whether an antiviral could help (within 24 hours of the start of the flu symptoms)

  • Remind your entire family to keep practicing good hand washing

  • Remind the sick person to keep covering their coughs and sneezes

  • Seek medical care if the ill person has underlying health problems (such as asthma) or if symptoms are severe (including labored breathing, extreme fatigue, decreased urine output, inconsolable irritability, or symptoms that aren’t getting better) 

No one wants their child to be sidelined with the flu. Wishing you a season of good health!


About Bright by Text

Kids don't come with instructions. That's why Bright by Text sends the info parents need most for raising little ones, from pregnancy through age 8. To join our village and get our free messages based on your child’s exact age and where you live, simply text BRIGHT to 274 448 or click here. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. You’ve got this, parents!

Bright by Text shares tips and info just for you: based on your child's age and where you live.

Go Back