Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Influenza Exposure


  • Exposure (Close Contact) to a person with influenza
  • Your child has NO symptoms of influenza (no fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose)

Call or Return If

  • Your child is HIGH-RISK and exposed to flu
  • Your child is HIGH-RISK child and develops symptoms of flu
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • You have other questions or concerns

About This Topic

Exposure (Close Contact) Definition

  • Household Close Contact. Lives with a person with flu.
  • Other Close Contact. Touching distance within 6 feet (2 meters) of person with flu. Close contact includes kissing, hugging or sharing eating and drinking utensils. It also includes close conversations. Direct contact with secretions of a person with flu is also close contact. Includes being in the same child care center room or carpool. The CDC defines 6 feet as how far coughing can spread the flu virus. How long the close contact lasts is also important.
  • Not Close Contact - In same building. Walking by a person or sitting in a room briefly is not close contact. Being in the same school, church, workplace or building also is not close contact.
  • Not Close Contact - In same town. Living in a town where there are people with flu is not close contact. Living in the same state or country (such as Mexico) carries no added risk.

After Care Advice

Influenza Close Contact Within the Last 7 Days but LOW-RISK Child:
  • Although your child was exposed to flu, your child does not have any symptoms.
  • Symptoms usually develop within 1-4 days of seasonal flu contact. 7 days is an outer limit.
  • Even if your child gets the flu, your child most likely will do fine. Anti-viral treatment (Tamiflu) is not needed for LOW-RISK children.
  • Healthy children get better from flu by treating the symptoms.
Treating Influenza With Antiviral Drug (such as Tamiflu):
  • Tamiflu is a prescription anti-viral drug. It is helpful in treating the flu virus.
  • The benefits are limited. Tamiflu reduces the time your child is sick by 1 to 1.5 days. It helps reduce the symptoms, but does not make them go away.
  • For best results, these drugs should be started within 48 hours of flu symptoms. It's taken for a total of 5 days.
  • When to Use: Severe symptoms OR underlying health problems (HIGH-RISK group)
  • For HIGH-RISK children, call your child's doctor at the start of flu symptoms.
  • Most healthy patients have mild to moderate symptoms. Tamiflu treatment is not needed.
  • Tamiflu also has side effects. It causes vomiting in 10% of children.
  • Also, it is not used to prevent flu. Reason: You would need to take the medicine every day for months.
HIGH-RISK Children for Complications From Influenza May Need Antiviral Drug:
  • Children are considered HIGH-RISK for complications if they have any of the following:
  • Lung disease (such as asthma)
  • Heart disease (such as a congenital heart disease)
  • Cancer or weak immune system conditions
  • Neuromuscular disease (such as muscular dystrophy)
  • Diabetes, sickle cell disease, kidney disease OR liver disease
  • Down's syndrome
  • Diseases requiring long-term aspirin therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Severe obesity (BMI over 40)
  • All healthy children under 2 years old are also considered HIGH-RISK (CDC)
  • Note: All other children are referred to as LOW-RISK
Flu Shot - Best Protection:
  • Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect your family from flu.
  • Influenza vaccines are strongly advised for all children over 6 months of age. (AAP)
  • Adults should also get the shot.
  • The flu shot most often prevents the disease.
  • Even if your child gets the flu, the shot helps to reduce the symptoms.
  • A new flu shot is needed every year. Reason: Flu viruses keep changing.
  • After the flu shot, it takes 2 weeks to get full protection. But then, the protection lasts for the entire flu season. By contrast, an antiviral medicine only protects from flu while you are taking it.
Preventing Influenza With Antiviral Drug (such as Tamiflu):
  • The drug Tamiflu may help prevent flu after close contact.
  • But, it is only advised for some HIGH-RISK patients (CDC). See the HIGH-RISK list.
  • Most doctors wait until flu symptoms start before treating. Reasons: Even after close contact, some children don't get flu. Also, Tamiflu is helpful only while your child is taking it. It won't prevent flu once your child stops taking it.
  • The CDC also recommends early treatment if flu symptoms occur, not preventive treatment.
  • If your child is High Risk, call your doctor within 24 hours of exposure. Your doctor will decide if an antiviral drug is needed. For example: a High Risk child living in home with person who has proven influenza illness. They usually receive Tamiflu for prevention.
  • HIGH-RISK adults with recent close contact should also call their doctor. The HIGH-RISK adult group includes chronic disease, pregnant, or over 65.
How to Protect Yourself From Getting Sick:
  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Alcohol-based hand cleaners work very well.
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth. Germs on the hands can spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Avoid ERs and urgent care clinics if you don't need to go. These are places where you are more likely to be exposed to flu.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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