What is the flu?
Influenza, commonly called 'the flu', is an infection caused by the influenza virus. It affects the nose, throat, lungs and other parts of the body. The flu can be a serious and sometimes life-threatening infection. It infects many people every year, mostly during the winter months in New Zealand.
What are the symptoms?
Flu in young children and babies usually causes at least two or three of the following symptoms:
With the flu, people are generally more unwell and flu symptoms may last longer.
Occasionally, flu can cause serious illness. This depends on the type of virus and a child's age and general health. The flu can be more serious in children who also have a long-lasting (chronic) disease. Your doctor can provide more advice if this is the case with your child.
Is it easy to catch the flu?
The flu virus is very easily spread and anyone can catch it - it doesn't matter how fit and healthy your child is.
It can spread through the air by coughing and sneezing as well as by hands, cups and other objects that have been in contact with an infected person's mouth or nose.
How can I prevent my child from catching the flu?
Flu immunisation offers the best protection. For more information, our immunisation section:
The following will also reduce the risk of catching the flu:
How do I treat the flu?
Most children fight off the infection by themselves.
Antibiotics are not helpful for the flu and your doctor won't prescribe them unless your child also has a bacterial infection.
Never give your child or young person aspirin as this may increase the risk of Reye syndrome, which is a rare and serious illness.
Continue with your child's usual medications (such as those for asthma, diabetes and epilepsy).
How can I care for my child?
Contact your doctor if you think your child has the flu and:
You should see a doctor urgently if your child of any age:
Dial 111 within New Zealand for urgent medical help (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) if your child: