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how the flu spreads in kids

3 Common Flu Myths Debunked

As parents, we are constantly searching for the best research and advice to overcome the obstacles of parenthood. Whether choosing the best medicine to treat a fever, learning about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, or deciding how the flu spreads and whether to get the flu shot, we are always reaching out to friends, family, and mommy groups to get the best tips and advice.

However, not all advice is equal.

What’s Wrong with Dr. Google?

As medicine evolves, and new research discoveries come to light, our recommendations and treatment plans change as well. In medical school, doctors learn what to look for in a research study to determine a valid conclusion.

Unfortunately today, anyone can Google something and there are fifteen studies at your disposal telling what to do. But like advice, not all studies are equal. And most parents haven’t gone to medical school to learn how to decipher these studies. Many studies do not have large study groups or valid parameters, and using them for self-diagnosis wouldn’t be wise.

With information always comes misinformation as well.

One of my favorite roles as a doctor is being an educator. I truly feel knowledge is power. And with knowledge, we become less fearful and more confident to overcome the obstacles set in front of us.

It is important to understand that anything can be written on the Internet. There are no guidelines, no criteria, and no rules. Google is an incredible resource that allows you to get answers to your questions, find inspiration, and connect with people. But it may not be the best place to search for medical advice.

Debunking 3 Common Flu Myths

So today I am going to focus on the flu and the 3 biggest myths that need debunking!

{And stick around till the end for some tips on the right way to use our good friend, Dr. Google.}

Myth #1 – The Flu Shot Gives You The Flu

False! That’s just not how the flu spreads.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), peak flu season is generally December through February.

Each year, millions of children contract influenza, resulting in thousands of hospitalizations and even deaths, especially in children under the age of 5.

In fact, an estimated 6% to 12% of children seek care for influenza-related illness each year.

The flu shot is one of our best weapons to not only prevent the spread of the flu but also protect our children against the serious complications of the flu.

Myth #2 – There is No Cure for the Flu

False! Unlike with bacterial infection, there is no medicine to cure most viruses. However, this is not the case with influenza.

With the flu, doctors recommend antiviral treatment as soon as possible for any patient with suspected or confirmed influenza who is hospitalized, has severe, complicated, or progressive illness, or is at higher risk for influenza complications, including children under the age of 5 years.

So what treatments are available?

There are four FDA-approved antiviral drugs recommended by CDC to treat flu this season:

  • Baloxavir marboxil – It is only one pill for 1 day (vs. Tamiflu, which is a 5-day treatment). Side effects may include nausea, so it’s a good idea to ask about anti-nausea medication with this antiviral drug.
  • Oseltamivir phosphate (a.k.a. Tamiflu)
  • Peramivir
  • Zanamivir

Remember, ANTIBIOTICS do not fight any virus, including influenza or COVID-19.

What are the benefits of antiviral therapy?

Early treatment decreases the duration of symptoms. And data suggests patients at high risk of influenza complications who receive antiviral medications can reduce the following:

  • Duration of symptoms
  • Risk of some complications (eg, bronchitis, otitis media, pneumonia)
  • Hospitalization
  • Mortality

Sometimes parents and caregivers may miss early signs and symptoms of influenza.

But know that getting your child to the pediatrician early can help prevent further complications like pneumonia or ear infections.

Delayed treatment increases the risk of serious influenza-related complications for the child or other household members. Not consulting your pediatrician at the first signs of illness also prevents prompt administration of antiviral treatments. Antivirals are typically most effective when taken within 48 hours of symptom onset.

Consider your entire family unit when thinking about how the flu spreads and early intervention.

Myth #3 – Once One Person Gets the Flu, It Just Needs to Run Its Course Through the Household

False! Prevention is always key to avoiding life-threatening complications.

But how can you prevent infection of other household members?

If anyone in your household comes in contact with the flu, it may be necessary to start treatment, especially for high-risk family members. Adults and children at least 3 months old may take post-exposure antiviral treatments within 48 hours of exposure.

It is important to call your doctor as soon as you know your child is sick. Your doctor will discuss how the flu spreads and tell you the best course of action. Formal testing is not always necessary in order for your healthcare provider to make antiviral treatment decisions.

If your child does have the flu, consider having them wear a mask, if possible. If siblings share a bedroom, separate sick children from well children at night.

And don’t forget that regular hand washing is important!

BONUS: Tips on the Right Way to Use Google

There are great resources available on the Internet that help educate parents on pediatric health and safe treatment options. So how do you know the difference between sound advice and misinformation?

These tips are my best advice for using Google safely and effectively:

  1. Make sure the information is valid and comes from a sound source. Check if there are footnotes and references from reputable medical institutions.
  2. Have your doctor recommend websites for general health questions.
  3. Before treating or attempting to treat your child or a family member by yourself, seek guidance and advice from your physician.
  4. Develop trust and a strong relationship with your physician and feel confident in their experiences and expertise.
  5. Do not hesitate to bring information you find on the Internet to your appointment and ask your physician about it.
  6. Know how to assess for an emergency. There are clinical signs to determine whether your child is stable and can wait to be seen by a doctor. If you have an emergency or suspect you may have an emergency, always seek the help of a professional immediately.

Final Thoughts on How the Flu Spreads

Knowing how the flu spreads is really helpful in prevention. And while our dear friend Dr. Google is handy and can help you narrow down your ultimate plan, it shouldn’t be your sole source of medical information.

When it comes to the diagnosing and treating your child for the flu, your pediatrician is always your best source of information.

Stay healthy, and stay safe!

~Dr. Katie



I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Genentech to write about the signs, symptoms, and treatments available for pediatric influenza. All opinions are my own.

As a pediatrician, I chose to partner with Med-IQ, an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. Through partnerships, like this one, with healthcare professionals, Med-IQ also seeks to guide the general population through obstacles of illness prevention and overall general wellness.

*Links to external sites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of any external site. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

What You Can Do – Take a Survey!

Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with pediatric influenza, which will help us develop future educational initiatives.

Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize and to send a follow-up survey as part of this same initiative.

*The survey contains links to external sites. Any such links are provided as a convenience and for educational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or legal advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization.Med-IQ influenza survey

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