The current flu season is shaping up to be a severe one for children.
So far this season, 47 kids and teens have died from the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday — a worrisome toll that experts say puts the U.S. on track with what was seen last flu season, a particularly bad one for children that ended with 183 pediatric deaths reported.
"We are probably going to at least meet or exceed that," said Dr. Andi Shane, head of pediatric infectious diseases at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "We are seeing quite a notable season in terms of deaths."
The increase in pediatric deaths comes amid an apparent slowdown in flu activity.
On Friday, the CDC reported that for a second week in a row, the number of people hospitalized for the flu has decreased slightly.
Still, the virus continues to circulate at "elevated" levels across most of the country, and the agency warned that it is too soon to say the season has peaked as it continues to watch for another possible rise in spread.
An estimated 180,000 people have been hospitalized so far this season, and 11,000 people have died.
Flu A, particularly H1N1, accounts for the majority of cases, though flu B, which is often more severe in children, is also being reported.
Flu symptoms doctors are seeing in kids this season
Dr. Kali Broussard, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Our Lady of Lourdes Women's and Children's Hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana, said that the majority of children she is seeing with flu have high fevers, of 103 or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, for up to a week.
"This year, it's really the prolonged fevers, dehydration and poor appetite that seem to be getting the best of kids," Broussard said.
Children may also experience a sore throat, runny nose, chills and extreme body aches, said Samia Kadri, a lead family nurse practitioner at Banner Urgent Care in Phoenix, Arizona.
"Some are coming in with one or two of those symptoms. Some are coming in with all of those symptoms," Kadri said.
Flu patients generally have one thing in common: "It's how fast that virus hits you. If it hits you hard and fast, it's probably the flu," she said.
Sometimes, children develop a severe and painful form of muscle inflammation called myositis. They may feel that they can't walk, and sometimes only want to be carried, Broussard said.
"It's a relatively uncommon side effect of influenza," Broussard said, adding that it tends to be more common in males and in influenza B patients. She estimates that it can affect up to 20% of kids during seasons when flu B is spreading widely. It usually resolves within a few days.
But it's dehydration that can send a child into the hospital with the flu. Broussard said the following dehydration signs warrant a doctor's attention:
Eyes that are sunken in.
Crying that does not produce tears.
Babies and toddlers who stop drooling as much as they normally do.
Saliva that becomes thick.
The annual flu vaccine is recommended for pregnant women, and for children starting at 6 months old. There is still time to get that shot this year, doctors say. While there is no guarantee the shot will protect against infection, it can help reduce the severity of the illness.
Unvaccinated children are often sicker, said Kadri of Banner Urgent Care in Phoenix. "I find them to be much more ill than my kids who have been vaccinated."
CORRECTION (Jan. 19, 2024, 5:08 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the gender most affected by myositis. It is more common in males, not females.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com