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How dangerous is the flu in children?

Not all cases of the flu in children are severe. Even in the same family, one child may be very sick; another child may have a milder illness. Children may go back to school or day care when their temperature is normal and they feel better. A lingering cough is not always a reason to remain at home.

Influenza (“the flu”) is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Each year, millions of children get sick with the flu. Thousands of children are hospitalized and some children die from seasonal flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations among children younger than age five ranged from 7,000 to 26,000 per year in the United States. Since 2004-05, flu-related deaths in children reported to the agency during regular flu seasons ranged from 37 to 171 deaths.
 
Here are some facts about children and the flu:

  • Children commonly need medical care because of the flu, especially before they turn five years old.
  • Children younger than five years and especially those younger than age two are at high risk of serious flu complications.
  • Children of any age with chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system also are at high risk of serious flu complications.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.