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Seasonal influenza in children: Prevention and treatment with antiviral drugs

Flor M Munoz, MD, MSc
Section Editors
George B Mallory, MD
Morven S Edwards, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Influenza is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses, which occurs in outbreaks worldwide every year, mainly during the winter seasons in temperate climates.

Certain groups of children are at increased risk of acquiring severe or complicated illness from influenza (table 1). Among healthy children, influenza generally is an acute, self-limited, and uncomplicated disease [1-3]. However, it can be associated with severe morbidity and mortality. Influenza causes an appreciable disease burden (eg, school and work absence, increased frequency of outpatient medical visits), and children are important vectors for the spread of disease. (See "Seasonal influenza in children: Clinical features and diagnosis", section on 'Epidemiology'.)

Immunization is the most important public health measure for the prevention of influenza infection [4-6]. However, antiviral drugs also may be used for prevention in high-risk patients who have not been immunized or who may have a suboptimal response to vaccine, in patients in whom influenza vaccine is contraindicated, and for anyone who wants to reduce their risk of acquiring influenza in seasons when the vaccine is a poor match for circulating influenza.

Antiviral drugs are an important treatment option for patients who develop influenza infection despite immunization and those who are not immunized. Families of infants and children who are susceptible to severe disease from influenza should be reminded that these children may develop influenza infection despite immunization. If so, they should be seen by their health care provider as soon as possible after symptom onset because treatment is most beneficial when started early in the course of influenza.

The use of antiviral drugs in the prevention and treatment of influenza in children will be presented here. Influenza vaccination in children and the use of antiviral drugs in adults are discussed separately. (See "Seasonal influenza in children: Prevention with vaccines" and "Prevention of seasonal influenza with antiviral drugs in adults" and "Treatment of seasonal influenza in adults".)


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