Yuma, Arizona (NAPSI) - There are three important questions to which every parent should have the answer: How do you know if your child has the flu and not a cold? Should you wait to see if his or her symptoms improve before calling the doctor? What if symptoms worsen?

Influenza, “the flu,” can come on quickly, typically from one to four days after a person is exposed to the virus, and, importantly, some symptoms can be similar to the common cold. The flu, however, is much worse. Each year, more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to the flu and, tragically, most years, more than 100 children die from this disease.

Signs To Watch For

So how can you tell if it’s the flu? Symptoms usually include:

• Fever

• Headache

• Extreme tiredness

• Dry cough

• Sore throat

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Muscle aches

• In children: nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Doctor’s Advice

“It’s difficult for young children to communicate exactly what or how they’re feeling,” said Dr. Matthew J. Cory, pediatrician and medical director at Lakeside Pediatrics in Lakeland, Florida and medical adviser to Families Fighting Flu, a national nonprofit organization. “As a result, it’s up to parents to be alert to notice when their child’s activity level or behaviors change, signaling the possible symptoms of the flu. Because the flu affects children in different ways, it is always advisable to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.”

How to Prevent the Flu

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated for the flu each and every year—and it’s not too late in the season to do so.

“Getting an annual flu vaccine is the single best preventative measure that parents should take to help protect children from the flu,” said Laura Scott, executive director of Families Fighting Flu. “Members of our organization include families whose children have suffered serious medical complications or died from influenza, and we share our stories to raise awareness about this potentially devastating disease in the hopes that others won’t have to endure similar hardships.”

One Mom’s Story

“My husband and I were so excited for Charlie’s second birthday party,” recounts Jennifer, a Families Fighting Flu member. “A few days before her party, we started noticing a change in her normally chipper personality. She became very quiet, listless and tired and ultimately developed a fever over 100 degrees. Fearful that she might miss her birthday party, we took her to the pediatrician right away. We were expecting her doctor to say she ‘just had a little bug’ and would be fine in a day or two. We were shocked when the doctor came back with a diagnosis of the flu. We didn’t even know anyone who had the flu.

“Immediately, her doctor gave her Tamiflu since she had been diagnosed early enough, but over the next week, Charlie hardly moved, not even to watch cartoons. Her temperature never went below 100 degrees but would reach as high as 103 degrees. I could just tell how much her body ached because she would moan and cry when I changed her.

“Charlie’s birthday party was canceled. I know it sounds trivial now, but at the time I was so disappointed; however, I’m thankful because we aren’t a family that typically rushes off to the doctor for every sniffle. Having grown up with a ‘tough it out’ mentality, we normally would have given Charlie some over-the-counter medicine and waited it out. Charlie has since made a full recovery but had it not been for her getting sick right before her birthday party, chances are we may not have taken her to the doctor so quickly. I urge all parents to not only get your family vaccinated against the flu every year but always pay close attention to your child’s behaviors, which can give you important clues about his or her overall health.”

More Information

Flu vaccines are available in a variety of places like doctor’s offices, pharmacies and supermarkets. Essential resources about flu prevention, including a flu clinic locator and an educational toolkit, are available at www.FamiliesFightingFlu.org.