Since the influenza virus is unpredictable and can result in serious infections, the best thing you can do to protect your family is to get vaccinated. A flu shot can be lifesaving, especially for vulnerable populations.

“As we continue to face COVID-19, you should wear your masks, wash your hands and watch your distance by keeping space between you and others,” says James Fortenberry, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “And this year—more than ever—it’s important to get your flu shot. These precautions will help reduce the risk of spreading all respiratory illnesses.”

Navigate flu season with these resources for parents

Here’s what parents need to know about helping their kids avoid flu, how to treat flu when they do catch it and more.


The flu is a common and contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. Because the flu virus changes, you need to get a flu shot every year to protect your family.

Flu can be mild or severe, and the vast majority of kids who get the flu recover by being treated at home. In some extreme cases, however, the flu can cause death. It is especially dangerous for people who have a chronic illness or a weakened immune system.

What are common flu symptoms in kids?

  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

How do flu symptoms differ from COVID-19?

While many flu symptoms are similar to symptoms of COVID-19, the most distinctive difference is that people with COVID-19 sometimes lose their senses of taste and smell.

And because many symptoms do overlap, preventing a flu infection by getting your annual flu shot could help reduce confusion or concerns about possible COVID-19 infection in your family.

Should I take my child to the doctor for flu symptoms?

If you think your child has flu symptoms and are wondering whether you should seek medical care, contact your child’s pediatrician. Many pediatricians also offer after-hours care during flu season.

How can I prevent the flu?

The flu is common but often unpredictable. The best way to keep your family healthy is to stay up to date on your annual flu vaccinations.

Contact your child’s pediatrician or find a facility near you that offers the flu vaccine using the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

You can also help keep your family well by:

  • Staying away from others with a fever, cough or runny nose.
  • Encouraging frequent handwashing.
  • Watching your distance by keeping space between you and others.
  • Keeping noses and mouths covered when coughing or sneezing.
  • Making sure your family members are up to date on their vaccinations.
  • Keeping hard surfaces clean to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • Giving your child’s immune system a boost with plenty of sleep, exercise, and a nutrient-rich diet full of flu-fighting fruits, vegetables and protein.

Remember, it’s never too late to get a flu shot.

How can I treat the flu in kids?

If you suspect your child has the flu, you can often care for her safely at home by providing her with plenty of fluids and making sure she gets lots of rest.

The good news is most kids recover from the flu without ever having to see a doctor. Parents should know how to spot the flu, how to treat their kids’ symptoms and how to prevent it from spreading within their families.

What if your child needs urgent care?

When your pediatrician isn’t available, our Urgent Care Center physicians are here for you—plus, they’re specially trained to diagnose and treat children’s and teens’ common illnesses and injuries.