Flu Season News: When the Flu Turns Deadly

What You Need to Know to Protect Your Children

There are several underlying conditions that can make an individual more susceptible to severe and even deadly, flu-related complications. This is why the CDC recommends that children and adults with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and other disorders get a flu shot every season; however, half of the children hospitalized with influenza in this 2017-2018 season did not have any of the underlying chronic conditions that make children susceptible to complications from the flu.
Young children are vulnerable to developing the flu not only because they are typically exposed to other, vulnerable children at school and in day cares, but because they lack “immunologic experience.” [1] Because of these two factors, children can easily develop a secondary infection on top of influenza. This scenario creates an opportunity for sepsis to occur, and this is often when the flu turns deadly for an otherwise healthy child.
The CDC describes sepsis as the body’s extreme response to an infection.[2] When children (as well as adults) are fighting the flu, the body releases “cytokines—proteins that are created as part of the inflammatory response” to the immune system’s attempt to fight the infection.[3] These cytokines can create what doctors describe as a sort of system overload in the body, resulting in sepsis.
Additionally, children and infants are more likely to suffer from dehydration while infected with the flu. This also creates deadly complications.
What are the symptoms parents should look for to prevent the flu from turning deadly?
In addition to making sure their child is hydrated, Parents should be particularly mindful of high fevers that won’t go away as well as ones that “abate only to flare up again after the child seems to be over the worst of the illness.”[4]
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