Six-year-old Seb didn't experience any common flu symptoms before he was diagnosed with the virus, instead, he broke out in hives

By Char Adams
February 01, 2018 05:08 PM

A Nebraska mom is warning parents everywhere about a rare flu symptom after her 6-year-old son broke out in hives before being diagnosed with the virus.

Brodi Willard says she became concerned when her son, Seb, returned from school last week with hives on his neck. No home remedies helped, and soon, the boy’s body was covered in the rash. So, she took her to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with influenza.

“This is a healthy kid who has never had hives, never had anything wrong with him. Then all of a sudden he has hives,” Willard, of Blair, Nebraska, tells PEOPLE. “He got his flu shot in October … but I brought him in on Friday morning and he tested positive.”

Hives is not among the long list of common flu symptoms, which typically includes fever, sore through, cough, headaches, runny nose and fatigue. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does list “fever with rash” as an emergency warning sign of flu sickness in children.

Still, Willard says she was “concerned” when the rash proved to be Seb’s only flu symptom.

“He’s never had a runny nose, no cough, no fever. He’s never had any other symptoms,” she says. “We immediately started him on the Tamiflu that Friday night … The hives went away on Sunday and that was it.”

Seb (right) with brother
Brodi Willard

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Although hives are not a common flu symptom, Pritish K. Tosh, MD, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease physician and researcher, says it’s possible hives could signal an infection.

“I can say that hives are not commonly associated with influenza and may represent a second, unrelated process,” Dr. Tosh tells PEOPLE. “However this being a very rare manifestation of influenza infection is certainly in the realm of the possible.”

Willard shared a photo of Seb’s hives on Facebook, sending a warning to parents everywhere.

“Please keep watch on your children so if they develop hives, please call your pediatrician,” she wrote. “I have never heard of this symptom but it is obviously something to be on the lookout for.”

She adds to PEOPLE: “Of course, you could have other things going on, but it’s one thing to think about. If you’re kid does develop hives, it could be the flu.”

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Seb is now doing well. But Willard says the seeing several news stories about fatal flu cases did have her worried that she might lose her son.

“I did think about it, for sure. Lots of kids have died,” she says. “People need to realize that this is something that’s very dangerous. Kids are resilient, but when they start to get sick, they go down very quickly and it’s hard to come back from that.”

This year’s flu season has been devastating for children across the country. The CDC currently lists the 2017 to 2018 flu season as “moderately severe,” and warns it could get worse. At least thirty children have succumbed to the virus across the nation so far, PEOPLE confirmed with the Centers For Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC reports that the flu vaccine lessens the chance that someone catches the virus by 10 to 60 percent and doesn’t guarantee that someone will not catch the flu. However, the annual vaccine is highly recommended by the CDC for everyone 6 months and older and the more people that get vaccinated can limit the disease’s spread throughout the community.