Influenza in Children

Influenza in Children

Influenza is also called “the flu.” It is an infection in the lungs, nose, and throat (respiratory tract). It is caused by a virus. The flu causes symptoms that are similar to symptoms of a cold. It also causes a high fever and body aches.

The flu spreads easily from person to person (is contagious). Having your child get a flu shot every year (annual influenza vaccine) is the best way to prevent the flu.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Give your child over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child’s doctor.
  • Do not give your child aspirin.

Eating and drinking

  • Give your child an oral rehydration solution (ORS), if directed. This drink is sold at pharmacies and retail stores.
  • Encourage your child to drink clear fluids, such as:
    • Water.
    • Low-calorie popsicles.
    • Diluted fruit juice.
  • Encourage your child to drink clear fluids, such as:
    • Water.
    • Low-calorie popsicles.
    • Diluted fruit juice.
  • Have your child drink slowly and in small amounts. Gradually increase the amount.
  • Continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed your young child. Do this in small amounts and often. Do not give extra water to an infant.
  • Encourage your child to eat soft foods in small amounts every 3–4 hours, if your child is eating solid food. Avoid spicy or fatty foods.
  • Avoid giving your child fluids that contain a lot of sugar or caffeine, such as sports drinks and soda.

Activity

  • Have your child rest as needed and get plenty of sleep.
  • Keep your child home from work, school, or daycare as told by your child’s doctor. Your child should not leave home until the fever has been gone for 24 hours without the use of medicine. Your child should leave home only to visit the doctor.

General instructions

  • Have your child:
    • Drink enough fluid to keep his or her pee (urine) pale yellow.
    • Cover his or her mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
    • Wash his or her hands with soap and water often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If your child cannot use soap and water, have him or her use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier to add moisture (humidity) to the air in your child’s room. This can make it easy for your child to breathe.
  • If your child is young, use a bulb syringe to clean mucus out of the nose as needed.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your child’s doctor. This is important.

How is this prevented?

  • Have your child get a flu shot every year. Every child who is 6 months or older should get a yearly flu shot. Ask your doctor when your child should get a flu shot.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick during fall and winter (cold and flu season).

Contact a doctor if your child:

  • Gets new symptoms.
  • Has any of the following:
    • Ear pain.
    • Chest pain.
    • Watery poop (diarrhea).
    • A fever.
    • A cough that gets worse.
    • Feels sick to his or her stomach (nauseous).
    • Throws up (vomits).

Get help right away if your child:

  • Has trouble breathing.
  • Starts to breathe quickly.
  • Has blue or purple skin or nails.
  • Is not drinking enough fluids.
  • Will not wake up from sleep or interact with you.
  • Gets a sudden headache.
  • Cannot eat or drink without vomiting.
  • Has severe pain or stiffness in the neck.
  • Is younger than 3 months and has a temperature of 100°F (38°C) or higher.

Summary

  • Influenza (“the flu”) is an infection in the lungs, nose, and throat (respiratory tract).
  • Give your child over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by his or her doctor. Do not give your child aspirin.
  • The best way to keep your child from getting the flu is to give him or her a yearly flu shot. Ask your doctor when your child should get a flu shot.
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