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Close up of a mom taking a child's temperature

Important Information about Flu Testing and Treatment

Recent news coverage about the severity of the current flu season may be creating unnecessary confusion and alarm for parents these days. The following “Q and A” information is offered by CHKD’s primary care, emergency, urgent care and infectious disease experts to help parents sort help from hype.

Q: Should every child with flu symptoms get a flu test?

A: No. Flu tests are useful in determining regional flu levels, but they aren’t reliable enough to guide treatment decisions.

Q: Then how do doctors make treatment decisions?

A: There are two main considerations when it comes to making treatment decisions about the flu. First is the current severity of your child’s illness. How well is your child breathing? How long has your child been sick? Did your child’s fever go away, then return? Is your child eating and drinking? These are some of the factors your doctor will consider when determining treatment.

The second consideration is whether your child is in a group that is at high risk for developing complications of the flu or causing severe illness in others. These include the following:

  • Children who are under the age of 2
  • Children who have cancer or who have recently undergone therapy that weakens their immune system
  • Children with chronic lung, heart, kidney, blood or neurological disease
  • Children who live with a baby under the age of 6 months
  • Children whose siblings or other household members have chronic health challenges
  • Children who live in chronic care facilities
  • Children of Native American or Alaskan decent

CHKD physicians recommend considering the use of Tamiflu for children who have flu-like symptoms and are in the high risk group and those who are severely ill with flu symptoms regardless of the results of a flu test.

Q: Shouldn’t every child who has the flu or flu symptoms take Tamiflu?

A: No. Tamiflu is not appropriate or even helpful in every case. And like all medicines, it does have side effects. Tamiflu is most likely to benefit children in the high risk group. Doctors may also prescribe Tamiflu for children who are over age 2 and have severe symptoms that started less than 48 hours ago and for those who live with chronically ill family members. If your child is otherwise healthy, does not meet any of the conditions above and is not experiencing symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization, the best treatments are rest, fluids and doctor-recommended medications to relieve symptoms. But always keep a close eye on your child and let your doctor know if your child seems sicker.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.