Flu is very common in young children

The frequency may increase if the child attends child-care or has a sibling who does. The number of colds or other viral infections gradually diminishes as the child grows older and builds up a good supply of antibodies to fight against the various viruses.

Flu versus common cold

Distinguishing between the flu and the common cold:

"Flu" or common colds are caused by viruses. However, there is a common misunderstanding between "the flu" and common cold. The common cold includes symptoms such as runny nose, cough, fever and sore throat. It is caused by scores of strains of viruses such as rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus and coronaviruses.

True "flu" is caused by influenza viruses (A, B and C). There are many strains of influenza virus. Two strains of A and one strain of B are usually predominant during the year while strain C is uncommon. The flu is highly infectious and can lead to complications like secondary pneumonia, bronchitis and brain infections (encephalitis).

How to prevent the flu or cure it faster?

"In the case of "the flu", getting a flu jab can be a preventive measure," says Dr Thoon Koh Cheng, Head and Senior Consultant, Infectious Disease Service, Department of Paediatric Medicine​, KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH)​, a member of the SingHealth group. You can also adopt some basic lifestyle habits, such as getting eno​ugh sleep and rest, and getting lots of exercise. These habits have been proven by studies to reduce the frequency of colds due to increased production of internal hormones and chemicals that prime our immune system. A well balanced diet is equally important to strengthen the immune system.

What to look out when my child has the flu?

If your child already has the flu, keep a look out for the following symptoms as they may suggest a more serious condition that requires further medical attention:

  1. Significant lethargy
  2. Poor feeding
  3. Vomiting
  4. Diarrhoea
  5. Breathlessness or wheezing
  6. Discolouration of lips (turning blue)
  7. Rashes or mottling (like a lacy pattern on lingerie) on the skin
  8. Drowsiness
  9. Inability to recognise parents or people
  10. Increased heartbeat
  11. Seizures

Ref: U11