Flu Symptoms—When to See a Doctor

Reviewed 3/21/2024

Learn the difference between your child’s flu symptoms that can be treated at home and more serious symptoms that require medical attention.

Mother and son checking in for flu care

If you have a sick child with flu-like symptoms, it’s not always easy to tell when he may need medical care. Knowing which flu symptoms are more serious can help you know when to take your child to the doctor.

“Flu testing and antiviral medicines may be helpful to some children who may experience severe symptoms from a flu infection,” said Andi Shane, MD, MPH, System Medical Director of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “Doctors and nurses will consider each child’s situation individually. However, most healthy children may be treated at home with fluids and fever-reducing medicines that don’t contain aspirin.”

A child with the flu will typically experience:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat

What are common COVID-19 symptoms?

While many flu and COVID-19 symptoms do overlap, the biggest differentiator is a new loss of taste or smell that is more commonly found in COVID-19.

Your child should be taken in for medical care if he has the following symptoms:

  • Fever that does not respond to fluids, rest and fever-reducing medications
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inconsolable irritability
  • Confusion
  • Headache that does not go away
  • Chest pain
  • Labored breathing and a persistent cough
  • Neck stiffness
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting and dehydration (decreased urination and no tears when crying)
  • Back pain
  • Weak legs or feet
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Red urine

Still in doubt? Remember, you know your child best. If your child’s symptoms are severe, or if you are concerned, it’s best to seek care from your child’s pediatrician first. If he or she is unavailable, ask about visiting a Children’s Urgent Care Center or Emergency Department.

Download a guide to help decide if your child needs urgent care or emergency services.



Here’s what to expect if you do visit one of our facilities during flu season.

If you think your child has the flu, most symptoms can often be managed at home with rest and plenty of fluids. And it’s never too late to get a flu shot.

Rest assured we’re here for you if you need us.

At Children’s, safety is our top priority. We are working hard to protect our patients, families and staff. Whether you have an appointment or need to visit us for emergency care, we’ve put extra precautions in place to keep your family safe.

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.