Influenza diagnosis and treatment in children: a review of studies on clinically useful tests and antiviral treatment for influenza

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2003 Feb;22(2):164-77. doi: 10.1097/01.inf.0000050458.35010.b6.


Background: Prompt testing for influenza can help guide clinical management of patients with suspected influenza. Three antiviral medications, amantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir, are approved for treatment of influenza in children. Rimantadine and ribavirin have also been used.

Objectives: To review the published evidence on clinically useful diagnostic tests and antiviral treatment for influenza virus infections in children.

Methods: Studies published from 1966 through September 2002 were reviewed on clinical diagnosis, immunofluorescence and rapid influenza tests and on antiviral treatment of influenza virus infections among pediatric populations.

Results: No studies assessed the accuracy of clinical diagnosis of influenza in children compared with viral culture. Compared with viral culture, direct immunofluorescence antibody and indirect immunofluorescence antibody tests for influenza had fair to moderate median sensitivities and high median specificities, whereas rapid influenza diagnostic tests had moderate median sensitivities and moderately high median specificities. No randomized, placebo-controlled studies were found of amantadine or rimantadine for treatment of influenza A. In a few separate controlled studies, oseltamivir, zanamivir and ribavirin each reduced symptom duration of influenza compared with placebo.

Conclusions: Additional data are needed about the accuracy of clinical diagnosis of influenza in children. Although direct immunofluorescence antibody staining, indirect immunofluorescence antibody staining and rapid tests are moderately to reasonably accurate in detecting influenza virus infections in children, physicians should use clinical judgment and local surveillance data about circulating influenza viruses when interpreting test results. Further controlled studies of the efficacy, adverse effects and emergence of antiviral resistance during treatment of influenza are needed for all of the antiviral drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetamides / therapeutic use
  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Amantadine / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Guanidines
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Influenza, Human / diagnosis*
  • Influenza, Human / drug therapy*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Orthomyxoviridae / drug effects
  • Orthomyxoviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Oseltamivir
  • Pyrans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sialic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Zanamivir


  • Acetamides
  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • Guanidines
  • Pyrans
  • Sialic Acids
  • Oseltamivir
  • Amantadine
  • Zanamivir