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Flu (Influenza)

What is the flu?

The flu, a viral infection of the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi, often occurs during the winter. Common symptoms of influenza include stuffy nose, sore throat, and a constant cough. Other flu-related symptoms might include muscle aches, headaches, fevers, and chills. 

In most cases, influenza is just a severe cold. For a healthy person, the flu is not usually dangerous.

How can I take care of my child?

Treatment varies depending on the symptoms, and bed rest is not always necessary.

  • Fever or aches 

If your child has a fever over 102°F (39°C), give them acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 6 hours or ibuprofen (Advil) every 8 hours. You should never give your child aspirin because it might be linked to Reye's syndrome.

  • Cough or hoarseness 

Children over the age of four may take cough drops. If your child is under the age of four, give them 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of corn syrup as needed.

  • Sore throat 

Children over the age of four may suck on hard candy. Children under the age of four may slowly drink warm chicken broth.

  • Stuffy nose 

If your child has a stuffed nose, use warm-water or saline nose drops, along with nose blowing, to clear their sinus. If using a nasal wash, use it whenever your child can't breathe through their nose. To create your own saline nose drops, simply add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water. 

  • Contagiousness

Influenza is very contagious. This virus spreads rapidly because the incubation period is only 24 to 36 hours.

After this period, your child's fever will break and their energy should return. At this time, your child will be able to return to school or day care.

Does my child need antiviral medicine?

Antiviral medicine does not have a major impact on your child's recovery. In fact, they will only reduce the length of their sickness by a day or two. Additionally, antiviral medicine must be administered within 48 hours to work properly. To learn more about how antiviral medicine might be beneficial for your child, speak with your pediatrician today.

Does my child need a flu shot?

We recommend high-risk children 6-months-old and older receive a flu shot. High-risk children often have additional complications from influenza. These children are especially vulnerable to contracting pneumonia. 

We recommend family members of high-risk children get flu shots too. Children with the following conditions are considered high-risk: 

  • Lung disease, such as asthma 
  • Heart disease, such as a congenital heart disease 
  • Muscle disease, such as muscular dystrophy 
  • Metabolic disease, such as diabetes 
  • Renal disease, such as nephrotic syndrome 
  • Cancer or immune system conditions 
  • Diseases requiring long-term aspirin therapy 

A 2006 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests children 6-months to 5-years-old get a flu shot. The study also suggests children under the age of two are at a greater risk for high-risk conditions.

When should I call Idaho Falls Pediatrics?

Call IMMEDIATELY if:

  • Your child is having trouble breathing
  • Your child starts to act very sick. 

Call during office hours if:

  • Your child develops any complications such as an earache, sinus pain or pressure, or a fever lasting over 3 days
  • You have other questions or concerns. 

*NOTE: This information is provided as a public educational service. The information does not replace any of the instructions your physician gives you. If you have a medical emergency please call 911 or call the Hospital at (208) 529-6111. If you have questions about your child's care, please call Idaho Falls Pediatrics at (208) 522-4600.