Kids and the Flu

How do you distinguish a common cold from the flu (influenza)?When late fall rolls around, the flu usually rolls in with it.

“The first few days  with a cough, fever and sore throat are early signs of influenza,” says Dr. Antonio Arrieta, an infectious disease specialist at CHOC. “Fever is very common. Probably 90 percent of children  who have influenza will have a high fever.”

What else should you look out for to identify this seasonal respiratory infection?

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose

It’s possible for your child to be on the winning team this flu season.

“The best way to fight influenza is not to get it. All children older than 6 months and adults should receive the flu vaccine. It is safe and highly effective,” Dr. Arrieta says.

What else can you do? Suggestions from Dr. Arrieta include washing one’s hands very carefully before and after taking care of young children, and avoiding close contact for long periods of time with people who have influenza or a respiratory illness.

The flu shot is safe and up to 70 percent protective. Also safe and effective is the intranasal form of the vaccine, which shouldn’t be given to children less than two years of age and with asthma or a history of wheezing, says Dr. Arrieta.

“The only effective treatment that will shorten the course of the illness is anti-viral agents,” Dr. Arrieta says.

The most familiar one is Tamiflu. It’s safe for children ages 1 and older, if necessary.

Alternatively, parents can administer over-the-counter remedies like acetaminophen for fever or discomfort, Dr. Arrieta says.

Dr. Arrieta does not recommend decongestants for flu treatment.

“They can make children drowsy and limit the parent’s ability to evaluate them if they’re not feeling well,” he says.


  • Number of days severe flu symptoms may last: 7 days
  • Number of colds Americans suffer yearly: 1 billion
  • Age recommended to begin getting yearly flu shots: 6 months

View the full feature on Kids and the Flu

Dr. Antonio Arrieta
Dr. Antonio Arrieta
CHOC Infectious Disease Specialist


Dr. Arrieta has served patients at CHOC Children’s since 1991. He is the director of pediatric infectious diseases and director of infectious disease clinical research, and specializes in the treatment of serious community acquired and nosocomial infections. Dr. Arrieta completed his fellowship at UCI Memorial/Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach and his pediatrics residency at Southern Illinois University.

Dr. Arrieta’s philosophy of care: “My most important message for the community is prevention mainly through timely immunization, and also by observing healthy habits and handwashing.”

Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru

Pediatric Infectious Diseases

More about Dr. Arrieta

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on December 3, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson.