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IMPORTANT: That Negative Flu Test? It’s Not Always Great News

negative flu test

You don’t have to be a doctor to realize that a swab plunged deep into the nose causes discomfort and irritability.

That’s the way flu tests are administered, by the way – and that typically means babies and small children (and a significant number of adults) are going to be shifting in their seats, if not scrambling for the door.

If the swab fails to snag a sufficient amount of antigen, a false negative can result.

Similarly, if the flu test is administered too early in the cycle of the illness – a false negative can result.

In fact, false negative flu tests have been relatively prolific this season.

Sure, they make parents feel relieved – until they don’t. Until the flu – the actual flu – hits hard, making their child feel miserable.

So why test?

Particularly in the midst of flu season, if a child experiences a sudden onset of symptoms – high fever, achiness, nausea, and fatigue – his or her pediatric provider can make a confident clinical diagnosis of influenza.

Regardless of the underlying cause, fever and respiratory distress are automatically considered contagious, and that prompts isolation – no school, no sports, no clubs, etc. Most importantly, whether the flu or a run of the mill virus – treatment is exactly the same.

There is no silver bullet for influenza. No pharmaceutical cure. Rest, hydration, pain management, and the soothing power of chicken soup are the only prescription, along with a management plan that keeps a close eye on the potential development of secondary infections or complications.

Antivirals like Tamiflu, it should be noted, are only advised for high risk children – those who are either younger than 2 or have chronic illnesses. Because Tamiflu only shortens the duration of the illness for one to two days, and because it is linked to severe side effects – many of which ape the flu, itself – KinderMender offers it only on a case-by-case benefit in which the benefits outweigh the risks.

It’s understandable that parents and guardians want answers when their children are hurting. In the long run, however, a false negative flu test can do more harm than good, and can even delay proper treatment.

If your child has flu symptoms, KinderMender can help. Wait times are minimal and we’re open seven days a week.

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