The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness that occurs throughout the winter and early spring. The flu is more dangerous than the common cold and can be detrimental to children and babies. The flu is usually spread through sneezing and coughing, but can also be spread via contaminated surfaces. Children that are in day cares are at increased risk, as well as children with chronic illnesses, such as asthma.
What are signs of the flu?
Sometimes parents have a hard time telling if their child has the flu or the common cold. It is important to note that the common cold and the flu have different symptoms. The common cold typically includes no fever or a low-grade fever, the child still has energy, a stuffy nose with rhinorrhea and sneezing, headache, and the child’s appetite is typically the same. The flu typically includes a high fever, the child has very low energy, a headache, decreased appetite, body aches, chills, and a dry cough. If you have any doubts as a parent, it is important to take your child to see the doctor, especially if the child seems dehydrated, listless, or confused.
How long does the flu last?
The flu starts being contagious about 24 hours before symptoms start and typically last for 5-7 days. However, it is important that your child does not have a fever for 24 hours before taking them back to day care.
What are ways to prevent the flu?
- The flu vaccine
- Children 6 months and older can get the flu vaccine
- Pregnant women can get the flu vaccine, which can help protect their babies from the flu for the first few months after their birth
- Frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer
- Cover a cough or sneeze in your sleeve
- Stay away from people who are sick
- Clean surfaces in the home and toys often
How do I treat my child if they get the flu?
The goal of treatment is to prevent and ease symptoms. Typically the flu is treated with rest, hydration, and acetaminophen/ibuprofen. However, some children may be candidates for Tamiflu, so you should discuss your child’s treatment plan with their provider.