How do I know when my child is getting the flu? | Ask a Beaumont Doctor

by Nicholas Gilpin, D.O., chief, Infectious Disease, Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe

Ask A Beaumont Doctor, GilpinWith flu season at its peak, children are at higher risk for getting sick because their immune systems are not fully developed.

How do I know when my child is getting the flu?

Influenza is a virus that primarily affects the respiratory system, so the most common symptoms include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat and cough. Your child also may have severe fatigue, body aches, fever and chills. During the winter, these symptoms should always raise one’s suspicion for the flu.

What kind of care should I give my child with the flu?

For most healthy children, the best treatment for the flu is supportive care, including rest. Parents should give their child lots of fluids and give them anti-inflammatory medications to control fever and body aches.

What is the difference between a virus, cold and flu?

Both the common cold and influenza are a type of viral infection. The common cold is caused by a number of different viruses, including the rhinovirus. The flu is caused by the influenza virus. Colds are usually less severe and don’t last as long as the flu. Common colds also are rarely associated with the more severe symptoms of the flu, such as fever, chills and severe fatigue.

Who needs a flu shot and how young can a person be to get a flu shot?

Remembering who should be vaccinated is simple: all people over age 6 months should get a flu shot. There are a few different varieties of influenza vaccination available, so it is best to discuss with your doctor or pharmacist which is best for your child.

Do flu shots protect my child against all the strains out there?

No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but the shots are very effective at preventing influenza and its complications. Most of the flu this season is the H1N1 influenza virus, and the best news is that this virus is covered by all available influenza vaccines.

After the onset of the flu, could the antiviral medicine Tamiflu® help my child?

Tamiflu® can help reduce the severity of influenza symptoms in some people, but it’s not for everyone. For some children with more severe forms of the flu, or for those people who are at greater risk for the flu because of underlying medical conditions, Tamiflu® may be useful.

Is Tamiflu safe for my children and at what age?

Tamiflu® can be administered to children who are more than a few weeks old. It is most effective when given within 48 hours of symptoms. Most healthy children will be able to manage flu symptoms with purely supportive care. Some children who may have weakened immune systems are more at risk for severe complications of the flu, and they are more likely to benefit from medications like Tamiflu®.

Do antibiotics work against viral infections?

No. The best treatment for viral infections is to let the illness run its course, while getting plenty of rest, fluids and nourishment. Generally, if a suspected viral infection is not improving after a few days, it is a good idea to inform your doctor.

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