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When your young child has swine flu

Alternate Names

Flu - young child; Influenza - young child

What to Expect at Home

The flu is an infection of the nose, throat, and (sometimes) lungs. Your young child will have a fever of 100 °F or higher and a sore throat or a cough. Other symptoms you may notice:

  • Chills, sore muscles, and headache
  • Runny nose
  • Acting tired and cranky much of the time
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

When your child's fever goes down, many of these symptoms should get better.

Eating and Drinking

Your child should drink plenty of fluids.

  • Do not give your child too much fruit or apple juice. Dilute these drinks by making them one half water and one half juice.
  • Popsicles or gelatin (Jello) are good choices, especially if the child is vomiting.

Your child can eat foods while having a fever, but do not force the child to eat.

Children with the flu usually tolerate bland foods better. A bland diet is made up of foods that are soft, not very spicy, and low in fiber. You may try:

  • Breads, crackers, and pasta made with refined white flour
  • Refined hot cereals, such as oatmeal and cream of wheat

Treating Your Child's Fever

Do NOT bundle up a child with blankets or extra clothes, even if your child has the chills. This may keep their fever from coming down, or make it higher.

  • Try one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket for sleep.
  • The room should be comfortable, not too hot or too cool. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever in children. Sometimes doctors advise you to use both types of medicine.

  • In children under 3 months of age, call your doctor first before giving medicines.
  • Know how much your child weighs, then always check the instructions on the package.
  • Take acetaminophen every 4 - 6 hours.
  • Take ibuprofen every 6 - 8 hours. Do NOT use ibuprofen in children younger than 6 months old.
  • Do NOT give aspirin to children unless your child's doctor tells you to use it.

A fever does not need to come all the way down to normal. Most children will feel better when the temperature drops by even one degree.

A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool a fever.

  • It works better if the child also receives medicine -- otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.
  • Do NOT use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs. These often make the situation worse by causing shivering.

Flu Shots

There are 2 types of flu vaccine that will be available. One is given as a shot, the other is sprayed into your child's nose (if they are 2 or older).

Even if your child has had a flu-like illness, they should still get the flu vaccine.

If enough flu vaccine is available, all children 6 months or older should receive the vaccine.

Some children are at more risk for a severe case of the flu. It is more important that these children receive the vaccine:

  • Children 6 months through 4 years of age
  • Children ages 5 -18 who have long-term medical problems
  • Children who are taking aspirin every day

Children may need a second flu vaccine around 4 weeks after receiving the first vaccine.

When to Call the Doctor

Talk to your child's doctor or go to the emergency room when:

  • Your child does not act alert or more comfortable when their fever goes down
  • Fever and flu symptoms come back after they had gone away
  • There are no tears when they're crying
  • Their diapers are not wet, or they have not urinated for the last 8 hours

Call 911 if your child has a fever and:

  • Is crying and cannot be calmed down (children)
  • Cannot be awakened easily or at all
  • Seems confused
  • Cannot walk
  • Has difficulty breathing, even after their nose is cleared
  • Has blue lips, tongue, or nails
  • Has a very bad headache
  • Has a stiff neck
  • Refuses to move an arm or leg (children)
  • Has a seizure
  • Has a new rash or bruises appear

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What to do if you get sick: 2009 H1N1 and seasonal flusite. September 18, 2009. Accessed July 31 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of iInfluenza A (H1N1) 2009 monovalent vaccine recommendations of the advisory committee on immunization practices (ACIP). National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC, MMWR. August 21, 2009: 58(Early Release);1-8 Acessed September 22, 2009.


Review Date: 10/2/2010
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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