In recent weeks, the Robert Koch Institute has recorded an enormous increase in the number of influenza cases in children. We give an overview of the cause of this sudden wave of flu, what symptoms occur and when you should take your child to the doctor.

The number of influenza infections has been increasing significantly for several weeks. Nationwide, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is recording more and more people suffering from the flu: the cases have almost doubled in the past month.

This is especially noticeable in schools and day-care centers. The number of cases is increasing, especially in the 5- to 14-year-old age group. “The influenza positive rate in children reached a level in the 17th and 18th calendar week of 2022 that would mean the beginning of the seasonal flu wave in winter,” the RKI Institute’s Influenza working group also shared in its weekly report for the 18th week .calendar week with. The number of infections in adults, on the other hand, is falling.

Burkhard Rodeck, head of children’s gastroenterology at the Christian Children’s Hospital in Osnabrück and general secretary of the German Society for Child and Adolescent Medicine, also reported to “Spiegel” that influenza had appeared in clusters since the end of the Easter holidays.

However, Rodeck does not find this surprising. In the past few years of the pandemic, children and young people have come into less frequent contact with various viruses due to lockdown, contact restrictions and distance regulations. In addition, the typical flu season in the first quarter of the year was canceled due to the measures. The immune system does not know the current pathogens, but is now increasingly attacking them.

The current situation is comparable to the increase in respiratory infections – for example with RSV – in children last summer and autumn. With the relaxation of the corona measures, the children’s immune systems had to deal with the germs and pathogens at the same time – the number of cases reached a peak. Normally, the infections would have spread over several months and would not have been noticed.

The peak of the flu wave could possibly come first. Martin Karsten, a pediatrician in Berlin, warns of a “huge increase”. He emphasized to RTL: “The children are now significantly sicker than the children we had with Corona at the time.” In addition, the cases would be underreported nationwide, since the flu virus – like the corona virus – had to be detected with a throat swab. According to the pediatrician, the number of unreported infections is high.

As soon as children have a high fever or other symptoms for more than two to three days, they should be tested for the virus by a doctor. The diagnosis is important for further treatment, emphasizes Karsten.

However, the Standing Vaccination Commission currently only recommends influenza vaccination for children with previous illnesses.

Possible previous illnesses can be:

There is no general vaccination recommendation, since the flu in healthy children or adolescents is not usually associated with an increased risk of serious illnesses. In individual cases, however, the vaccination can still make sense – for example if you could infect at-risk people in the immediate vicinity. An influenza vaccination must also be repeated regularly because the virus is constantly changing.