Should You Be Worried About Tomato Flu?

Why the newest viral fear may not be quite as worrying as it first appeared

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd
5 min readAug 22, 2022


Pictured: A tomato. It probably doesn’t have influenza, but you never know. Photo by Leilani Angel on Unsplash

As the world heads into the grips of yet another Covid-19 wave, and we all yet again are forced to reckon with the dangers of pandemics in our interconnected globe, a new worrying disease has been making headlines. Dubbed “tomato flu” due to the appearance of tomato-like rashes, the illness has been seen in the large state of Kerala in India, and has hit the news after the august Lancet Respiratory Medicine printed an article describing an ongoing outbreak of this new condition in children.

This article caused a rash of pieces describing this “very contagious” new disease, which is apparently spreading rapidly in kids across the state. With our attention so focused on infectious diseases these days, the very idea of another one has gotten people across the world in something of a panic because we’re still grappling with Covid-19, monkeypox hasn’t quite been brought under control, and the world is just a little bit crap at the moment generally.

But while the idea of a new respiratory virus that’s targeting children seems very scary, there’s actually reason to believe that all this news is mostly just hot air.

Pictured: A combination of tomatoes and hot air. Photo by amir tasaddi on Unsplash

Tomato Flu

If you read the Lancet piece, the description of tomato flu at first sounds quite scary:

“The primary symptoms observed in children with tomato flu…include high fever, rashes, and intense pain in joints…Rashes also appear on the skin with tomato flu that lead to skin irritation. As with other viral infections, further symptoms include, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, dehydration, swelling of joints, body aches, and common influenza-like symptoms, which are similar to those manifested in dengue”

No one particularly wants themselves or their children to have to go through any of that, and while the report does note that the current outbreak of tomato flu doesn’t appear to be very deadly, it is still not ideal to have yet another childhood disease for kids to worry about.



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