Children and flu: What to do?

You may have been hearing it is flu season for a few months now. But have you heard that the flu can really be very dangerous for children? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 6,000 and 26,000 children younger than 5 have been hospitalized each year in the United States because of influenza. These young children as also at a greater risk of death from the flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu in children? Children may have one or many of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Feeling weak or extremely tired
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Body aches

The flu does not usually cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Having your child vaccinated for the flu is a safe way to provide the best protection against the flu. Washing hands often and well definitely helps keep flu at bay too. However, children may still get sick this season.

What should you do when your child is sick? Here are some tips:

  • Call your doctor’s nurse line and let them know early on if you are worried about your child’s illness. This is especially important for children younger than 5 who have long-term health problems, including asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
  • Ensure your child drinks enough fluids, especially if they are coughing and blowing their nose.

The flu can become very serious. Get emergency medical care for your child when they show any of the following warning signs:

  • Fast or troubled breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Serious or constant vomiting
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Irritability to the point that the child does want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and worse cough

For infants, it is important to also get emergency medical care when your infant:

  • Is unable to eat
  • Cries without tears
  • Does not wet their diaper as often as normal

A child should stay home from school or day care until 24 hours after their fever is gone. This means that they have not exhibited a temperature over 100 deg. F without the use of medication for 24 hours or more. This will help limit the spreading of flu to others.

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About Navjyot Vidwan, M.D., MPH

Navjyot Vidwan, M.D., MPH, received a double major in biology and anthropology from Vanderbilt University. She completed medical school training at University College Dublin (Ireland). Dr. Vidwan’s residency in pediatrics was completed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Pediatric Infectious Diseases (ID) as well as her fellowship training. She completed a master’s degree in public health at UNC-Chapel Hill on global health and leadership with distinctions in project management and quality. With a public health perspective, she strives to focus on health equity and delivery for her patients and recognizes how social determinants of health impact daily medical needs. Currently, Dr. Vidwan practices with UofL Physicians – Pediatric Infectious Diseases and is the antimicrobial stewardship director at Norton Children’s Hospital. She also enjoys teaching and is the associate pediatric medical student clerkship director at the UofL School of Medicine.

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