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

This year’s influenza season is making its presence well known. 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 (E.D.) or Urgent Care this flu season.

Influenza vaccine

The influenza vaccine has been moderately effective this year preventing 36 percent of 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. Currently, there is a high prevalence of influenza in the community.  So, 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.


While we are hearing reports that some places are experiencing Tamiflu supply issues, this is not true everywhere. If your child is diagnosed with flu, the likelihood he or she will receive Tamiflu is determined by more than the supply at the location you choose to visit. 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 E.D. 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, E.D. 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 E.D. 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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Michael T. Brady, MD
Michael T. Brady, MD, is Associate Medical Director at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Co-Medical Director for Patient Safety, a member of the hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases and a Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. An infectious disease specialist for more than three decades, Dr. Brady began focusing on the emerging HIV epidemic in the mid-1980s and its implications for infants, children and adolescents. He created the country’s first family-centered pediatric HIV program at Nationwide Children’s in 1987. While still involved with the HIV program, his interests in recent years have included promoting immunization in children, reducing healthcare associated infections and providing guidance on emerging infections.Dr. Brady served as Physician-in-Chief at Nationwide Children’s from 2005 to 2013 and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at OSU’s College of Medicine from 2006 to 2013. Under his leadership, OSU’s Pediatrics faculty nearly doubled in size. Dr. Brady also oversaw the development of Physician Direct Connect at Nationwide Children’s, a service that puts community pediatricians in nearly immediate contact with specialists for consultations. He is a long-time member of Nationwide Children’s Graduate Medical Education Committee, influencing the training of the next generation of physicians.At the national level, Dr. Brady has served as Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases. He is currently the Associate Editor of Red Book, the comprehensive infectious disease reference from the AAP. He is also a member of the editorial panel for Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Exposed and HIV-Infected Children: Recommendations from the NIH, CDC, HIV Medicine Association, PIDS and AAP. Other activities have involved global immunization advocacy, ongoing education of pediatricians across the country and service on task forces handling issues ranging from circumcision to meningococcal vaccines.

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