Your Child Has The Flu. Now What?

December 21, 2018

Despite our best efforts, we’re not always successful at protecting our little ones from the flu. While the initial diagnosis might be a little scary, it’s important to remember that with proper treatment, monitoring, and a little vigilance, the virus will run its normal course and your child will be just fine.

Here are a few things you can expect when your child gets the flu, as well as some things you can do to care for them.


1. Signs & Symptoms

Your child will probably start to show signs of the flu about 1-2 days after coming in contact with the virus. These include:

  • Sudden fever
  • Chills
  • Head and body aches
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Malaise and weakness

If you see any of these symptoms in your child, you’ll want to take them to your pediatrician as soon as possible for diagnosis. Once flu is confirmed, you can expect your child to be sick for about 7-10 days. Even when fever and flu symptoms have subsided, you child may have a lingering cough or still feel a little weak.

Please keep in mind that the flu virus is extremely contagious and can be spread from about a day before the onset of symptoms until symptoms have completely subsided. So it’s very important that your child stays away from other family members while sick. You’ll also need to wash your hands after handling your child.


2. Treatment

Since the flu is a virus, there is no cure. Anti-biotics will not fight the flu or help your child get better. The only time your pediatrician might prescribe anti-biotics is to fight a secondary bacterial infection.

The best thing you can do for your child is make sure they get plenty of fluids and rest. Hydration is extremely important with the flu. Dehydration is bad enough by itself, but paired with the flu, it can cause serious, potentially deadly, complications. So make sure your child drinks lots of fluids, such as water, juice, milk, Pedialyte, or broth. Avoid caffeinated beverages or drinks with a lot of sugar.

You can also give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and aches. This will help them rest easier. Just remember that your child needs to be fever free for at least 24 hours *without* medication before they can return to school or resume normal activities. Do not give your child aspirin, as it can cause Reye Syndrome.


3. What About Tamiflu?

Tamiflu is an antiviral medication that attacks the flu virus to keep it from multiplying within the body. Tamiflu is not a cure for the flu. However, it can

  • Reduce or alleviate some symptoms of the flu
  • Shorten the amount of time your child is sick
  • Prevent your child from spreading flu

It’s important to understand that Tamiflu only works if it is administered within 48 hours of the start of the flu. Even then, there’s no guarantee it will work for every patient. If your child is prescribed Tamiflu, you should continue with the treatment options described above.

In some cases, Tamiflu can be used for prevention of the flu in people 1 year and older. So your doctor might prescribe Tamiflu to keep others in the house from getting the flu. That said, Tamiflu is not a substitute for the flu vaccine.

If your pediatrician prescribes Tamiflu, be sure to ask about any possible side effects or complications.


4. When To Seek Emergency Care

With plenty of rest and hydration, most children will make it through the flu without any complications. However, if your child begins to experience any of the following, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • A high fever that doesn’t respond to medication
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Dehydration (no tears when crying, no wet diapers or dark urine, very dry skin)
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Mental confusion
  • Severe and/or persistent vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Extreme malaise, fainting, or difficulty staying awake

5. Prevention


The simplest truth about the flu is that anyone can get it and anytime for any reason. However, you can greatly reduce the chances that your child gets the flu with some prevention methods.

First and foremost, the flu vaccine is the easiest, most effective way to prevent and limit the spread of the flu. For more information, we suggest reading our blog debunking some of the bigger myths surrounding the flu vaccine.

Aside from that, here are some other steps you can take to ensure your child doesn’t contract the flu:

  • Ensure your child washes their hands often with soap, especially after using the bathroom, coughing/sneezing, or interacting with other people.
  • Keep your child away from friends and family members who have the flu.
  • Don’t let your child share cups or utensils with other kids.
  • Make sure they cover their mouth when sneezing or coughing.


If you have further questions about the flu, or think you child may be infected with the flu virus, call our office today!


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