Flu Tests for Children

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on May 16, 2023

If it's going around during flu season, the doctor may judge the child to have flu simply from observing the classic symptoms such as fever, listlessness, headaches, chills, body aches, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, and cough. Your child may also have diarrhea and vomiting. Keep in mind that other viruses can cause similar symptoms as the flu.

The doctor may take swabs of mucus from the nose or throat and send them for lab analysis. Several rapid diagnostic kits are now available that vary in sensitivity. The tests can be incorrect; your child may have the flu but their test may come back negative. Or, when it is not flu season, the test result can be falsely positive. Therefore, it is important to also rely upon your health care provider’s clinical opinion.

Your doctor may decide not to do a flu test because the result will not affect the way you are treated. Treatments for flu include fever reducers and good hydration. Tamiflu, an anti-viral medication, can be given within 48 hours of feeling symptoms to shorten the duration of the illness. If your child is a high-risk patient or may have complications, your doctor may consider additional treatment.