Guest Post: What is Influenza

As promised, my friend Jordyn Redwood, ER nurse and writer extraordinaire is going to be posting common medical Q & A’s on my blog twice every month. I’m superexcited about this and think it will not only be a ton of fun but it will also be really informative. So, a huge thank you to Jordyn! And, if you want to know more about her, Jordyn is not only a novelist with a book coming out from Kregel in a few months, but she’s also a blogger who writes a superfun blog called “Redwood’s Medical Edge” where she discusses now novelists approach medical issues in their books. Check it out here.

What is Influenza?

Most often when patient’s sign in with a complaint of “flu” they are really having vomiting and/or diarrhea. Flu has become a commonplace term for just not feeling well.

If this is the concern you have in bringing your child to the ER they likely have gastroenteritis which is generally caused by a viral infection of the intestinal tract. Your child should be seen in the emergency department for concern for dehydration, if any blood is noted, or if they are vomiting bright yellow or green– and this was not caused from them eating a pile of yellow or green crayons.

How do we know you don’t have the flu? Like RSV, flu is a seasonal illness. It comes out to play in late fall and early winter. This is why flu shots are given around September, October and November.

Fine. But it is that time of year. The second reason we know it’s likely gastroenteritis is that flu is a respiratory illness… not an intestinal one.

Influenza is transmitted through droplets by coughing and sneezing. Typical associated symptoms are high fever (generally 102 and up), generalized muscle aches, fatigue and cough. You just don’t feel good at all.

In children, what can happen is what we term post- tussive emesis. This is when the child coughs so hard that they trigger their gag reflex and vomit. It’s more a mechanical issue than a viral one.

Do I need to go to the ER?

Not necessarily.

Fever can be managed with appropriate dosing of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Remember that ibuprofen should not be given to children less than six months and no aspirin for children under 21 unless specifically prescribed by your doctor.
Lots of fluids. Don’t worry too much if they’re not eating but they must drink. Don’t just give water—particularly to infants. If you have an H2O lover at home at least alternate water with something that has sugar and electrolytes. This can be Pedialyte or equivalent for children under 2 years and sports drinks for kids over 2. Juices are good but if you are concerned about the sugar content you can cut it in half with an unflavored Pedialyte.

Indications for the emergency department would be signs of respiratory distress or dehydration.

For more information about influenza, check out these resources:


Are you getting your flu shot this year?


Jordyn Redwood has served the pediatric population and their families for many years. She has five years of experience in the pediatric ICU and ten years of pediatric ER nursing which is the area she currently works. Jordyn also teaches CPR and advanced resuscitation courses.

Jordyn is also a suspense author. Her novel, Lilly’s Ashes, will be published by Kregel in the Spring of 2012. She also hosts a medical blog for authors which you can find at

Disclaimer: Remember, these posts are for education and discussion. If your child is sick and you think they require medical attention, take them to their pediatrician or local emergency department.


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