With 30 pediatric deaths associated with the flu and a rising numbers of cases, this is one of the worst flu seasons in over a decade. Although getting your child a flu shot is the best way to protect your child against influenza, it is not 100 percent effective.
We have received tons of emails from parents over the past month with questions about what to do if their child starts to show symptoms of the flu. Here, we tackle the most common questions about treating the flu.
How do I know if my child has the flu? What are the symptoms I should be looking out for?
Influenza can include any or all of these signs and symptoms: fever, muscle aches, headaches, a lack of energy, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and possibly runny nose.
Although fever is one of the more common symptoms, your child doesn’t necessarily have to have a fever to have the flu. Most fever and body aches last three to five days, while the cough and lack of energy could last for two or more weeks, especially in elderly patients.
Why do I need to take my child to the pediatrician within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms?
It is important that if your child is experiencing flu like symptoms, they are evaluated by their doctor. If your child is considered high risk, or there are people in the household that are high risk, your doctor may considering starting Tamiflu.
Tamiflu is an antiviral medication that helps shorten the duration of the flu, but is must be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms in order to be effective.
What is Tamiflu?
Tamiflu is a prescription medication that is used to treat influenza. It shortens the duration of the virus and helps to lessen the symptoms.
It is important that Tamiflu is taken within the first 48 hours symptoms. So, if your child is having flu-like symptoms, have your child evaluated by his or her doctor immediately.
Will my pediatrician do a flu test? Should my child start Tamiflu without getting confirmation of the flu?
Not all pediatricians will perform a test to confirm if your child has the flu.
Confirmation of influenza virus infection by diagnostic testing is not required for decisions to prescribe anti-viral medication. Many pediatricians make their diagnosis based upon clinical findings. Initiation of Tamiflu should not be delayed while influenza test results are pending.
Anti-viral treatment is clinically most beneficial when started as close to illness onset as possible.
Should everyone take Tamiflu?
Most cases of the flu are uncomplicated and do not require Tamiflu. It is typically reserved for patients that are considered high risk, or if there is someone in the household that is considered high risk.
How do I know if my child is high risk?
Persons who are at higher risk of complications from influenza include those over the age of 65 years or under the age of 2, pregnant women, persons with chronic lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, renal, metabolic, hematologic and neurologic disease, immunosuppression, morbid obesity, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and residents of chronic care facilities.
If I don’t start my child on Tamiflu, what over the counter medications should I be using?
One of the challenges of being sick is when you have multiple symptoms, be it congestion, fever, body aches, sore throat or cough.
Often people turn to multi-symptom OTC products, but these products often contain more than one ingredient. It is very important to read the Drug Facts label and be sure you aren’t taking two of the same ingredients, such as acetaminophen, when using OTC products to help treat the symptoms.
Always read the Drug Facts label before administering any OTC medicine. Never give oral cough/cold medicines to kids under the age of 4.
KnowYourOTCs.org is an incredible resource that all parents should have bookmarked. It can help guide and answer all the questions you have on over the counter medications.
If one of my children has the flu, how can I prevent other members of the family from getting it?
Wast your hands regularly. Avoid unnecessary touching of your eyes, mouth and nose as you can easily contact the flu just by touching a surface an infected person has touched.
Teach your children to cover their mouth or nose they sneeze or cough using a tissue or upper sleeve—but never their hands. Teach them to wash their hands immediately afterwards.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Regularly clean down all surfaces, especially door knobs and sinks, with an anti-viral cleaning product.
Make sure to avoid sharing cups and utensils. Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods.