Here are the 5 Fs of the flu:
1. FLU may include fever, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue or decreased appetite. Not every child will have every symptom.
2. FEVER helps the body fight the infection. Kids who are playful or sleeping comfortably can be left alone. Children who are uncomfortable, won't drink, crying a lot or look sick can get acetaminophen (>than 12 weeks, see dosage chart) or ibuprofen (>6 months old, see dosage chart). Use a weight-based dose or follow the instruction of your nurse, doctor, or pharmacist.
3. FATIGUE! Your child may be extremely tired and awake throughout the night. Catch sleep when you can.
4. FRUSTRATION! Here are some tips to help your little patient feel better.
- Muscle aches: Use ibuprofen (if older than 6 months) and a warm bath
- Headaches: Use ibuprofen and rest in a cool, dark quiet room
- Cough: For children older than age 1, a small spoonful of honey will ease the throat. Avoid cough medicine unless your doctor recommends it.
- Congestion: Use saline spray/drops and a bulb suction. Kids vapor-type rubs may also help. Use as directed.
- Appetite: Your child probably won't eat much solid food and that's OK. Encourage fluids of any kind, even milk. Yogurt fruit smoothies or frozen juice pops are great choices. Children under age 1 should only be given breast-milk, formula, or Pedialyte-type drinks.
5. FEAR! The flu can be scary. When should you call your doctor?
- If you suspect your child has the flu and is younger than 2, has asthma, lung or heart disease, a weakened immune system, problems with muscles or the nervous system, or other chronic disease
- Fever is greater than 104.5, doesn't respond to medication, or lasts longer than five days
- Difficulty breathing
- Your child cannot respond to you in a normal way
- Strange rashes or bruises
- Dehydrated or won't drink even when forced
- Your child feels better and then the fever returns or other symptoms worsen
- Your gut tells you that something else might be going on
Hang in there! It may feel like it will last forever, but it won't.
Kirstin Lee, MD, Washington University pediatrician at St. Louis Children's Hospital, is the mother of a son, age 2.
If you suspect you have a health problem, you should seek immediate care with the appropriate health care professionals. The information in this article is intended as a reference and information source and not a substitute for professional care.
For over 130 years, Children's Hospital and its Washington University School of Medicine physician partners have remained a resource for pediatric health and wellness for the St. Louis region and beyond.
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