700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

4 Things to Know If You Think Your Child Has the Flu

Feb 26, 2018
Little boy in bed with the flu.

Should influenza find its way to you and your family, you will be faced with the decision to seek medical care or let the virus run its course. Trust the judgement of your health care provider regarding testing and treatment. If the pediatrician sends your child for further evaluation, here are four things to know before you go to the Emergency Department (ED) or Urgent Care this flu season.

Influenza Vaccine

Most years, the influenza vaccine is at least moderately effective in preventing influenza infections and even a much higher percent of severe influenza disease and influenza hospitalizations.  In the US, that is many millions of people who have benefited from their influenza vaccine.

Rapid Flu Tests

Care teams in the hospital, urgent care centers and doctor’s offices do not need to perform a flu test in order to provide your child with the best treatment and care. When influenza is recognized in the community, it is appropriate to make a diagnosis of influenza based on symptoms and without any flu test. Flu testing is usually reserved for patients whose signs and symptoms might be influenza but could also be some other condition.  In this case, the test can assist with determining whether it is flu or something else.


Studies have shown that Tamiflu works best for patients when administered within 24 to 48 hours from the onset of symptoms. The more time that goes by from the onset of symptoms, the less effective Tamiflu becomes. For this reason, Tamiflu may or may not be a good fit for your child. In fact, the average child probably does not need Tamiflu. Care teams will assess your child and any risk factors before prescribing.

Timing Determines the Course of Treatment

One child’s visit to the ED with suspected influenza may be very different from another child’s visit simply due to timing and the child’s underlying health. The longer the time period with which a child has been experiencing symptoms, certain treatments become less effective. Getting a child with suspected flu into the doctor, ED or urgent care as soon as symptoms begin, offers more options for treatment than a child who has been having symptoms for a few days.

The best care possible will be provided to your child regardless of when they come to an ED or Urgent Care Center or clinic – but the course of treatment and testing may be different depending on each child’s onset and severity of symptoms along with any underlying risk factors. And personalizing care is best medical practice regardless of whether it is flu season or not!

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Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Matthew Washam, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases

Matthew C. Washam, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and member of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Washam’s research interests include understanding the risk factors for transmission of multidrug-resistant bacteria in children within the hospital environment.

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.