What to do if your child gets the flu

The number of influenza cases is on the rise in Louisville and across the country. The illness can be especially dangerous for young children.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 6,000 and 26,000 children younger than 5 have been hospitalized each year in the United States because of influenza,” said Navjyot Vidwan, M.D., UofL Physicians-Pediatric Infectious Diseases. “These young children are also at a greater risk of death from the flu.”

“Having your child vaccinated for the flu is a safe way to provide the best protection against the flu,” Vidwan said. “Washing hands often and well definitely helps keep flu at bay, too.”

Children with the flu 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

If your child gets sick, call your pediatrician and let him or her know early on if you are worried about your child’s illness. This is especially important for children younger than 5 years old 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 and drinks enough fluids, especially if he or she is coughing and blowing his or her nose.

The flu can become very serious. Get emergency medical care for your child if he or she shows any of the following signs:

  • Fast or troubled breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Serious or constant vomiting
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Extreme irritability
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with a fever and worse cough

Also, it is important to get emergency medical care for an infant who is unable to eat, cries without tears or does not produce a wet diaper with normal frequency.

Children should stay home from school or day care until their temperature is less than 100 degrees without the use of medication for 24 hours. This will prevent spreading flu to others.