Parent’s Guide to Influenza


The flu (influenza) is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs that is caused by the influenza virus. The flu can spread from person to person. Young children, pregnant women, older people, and people with chronic illnesses can get very sick and in some cases, die. Unlike temperate countries, in tropical countries like Malaysia, peak seasons for influenza occurs from Oct-Jan and Apr-June, but there is infection throughout the year.



What are the symptoms of flu?

Most people with the flu feel tired and have fever, headache, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, diarrhoea/ vomiting, and sore muscles. Cough can last two or more weeks.


What’s the difference between flu & common cold?

The common cold usually causes a runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion. It is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract which is usually harmless and can occur at any time of the year.

Influenza also has the same symptoms and affects the upper respiratory tract as well, but onset is rapid and more severe. Viruses that cause flu are different from viruses that cause cold, flu also occurs seasonally.

How does it spread?

Infected children cough, sneeze, and have a runny nose which contains droplets with flu virus in them. Other people can get the flu by inhaling these droplets or getting them in their nose or mouth after touching a surface tainted with respiratory droplets.


If my child has the flu, how long will he/she remain contagious?

About 24 hours after contracting the influenza virus and remain contagious for up to five days after onset of symptoms. Children with compromised immune systems can be contagious for up to two weeks. Infected children can transmit the illness before they even begin to feel any symptoms during the incubation period.

How can I protect & prevent my child from the flu?

The best way to protect your child against the flu is by getting them vaccinated against it as soon as they reach the proper age (≥6 months). Children 6 months – 8years old need 2 doses for the first year they’re vaccinated. Make sure to consult a doctor first.

Will the vaccine protect my child from the common cold too?

No, the vaccines only protect against current circulating influenza viruses. Viruses that cause flu and cold differ from each other.

What other medical options do I have other than vaccination?

Antiviral drugs can treat flu in children especially children who are very sick or hospitalised. It can make them feel better, get better sooner and may prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. However, those need to be prescribed by a doctor.

Never give aspirin or medicine that has aspirin in it to children or teenagers who may have the flu. Antibiotics are also not helpful because they’re only effective in treating bacterial infections.

What should I do in case my child gets sick?

Most children with flu are sick for about a week, but then feel better. Whatever the case, consult your doctor and make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks a lot of fluids (plain water).

Are there other ways to prevent flu?

Again, your child’s best bet is to get a flu shot. However, certain hygiene habits and practices will also help:

  • Stay away from children who are sick
  • Clean hands with soap often
  • Keep hands away from face
  • Cover coughs and sneezes to protect others
  • Eat healthily & encourage your child to be physically active.


When should I be worried?

Contact the doctor immediately if your child:

  • has a high fever that lasts a long time
  • has trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • has bluish skin
  • has difficulty taking up fluids
  • seems confused or has seizures
  • has recurrent symptoms
  • has other underlying medical conditions (asthma, thalassemia, diseases being treated with steroids, etc.)


Can my child go to school?

No, avoid spreading the virus, its best if they just stay home and rest. Keep your child home until his or her temperature returns to and stays normal for more than 24 hours. Healthy temperature for children is 37 – 37.2°C but may vary from child to child. A fever is defined as having a body temperature of 37.8 °C or higher.

An educational contribution by Malaysian Paediatric Association.

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