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The flu (influenza) is caused by a virus that’s easy to spread, especially among kids in school or daycare. A child’s immune system is not as well developed as an adult’s. This means the flu can make children very sick. Also, children in daycare or school are very likely to bring the virus home to other family members.
Flu symptoms often come on quickly. Symptoms include:
Feeling very tired (fatigue)
Children may also have upset stomach and vomiting. Some symptoms such as fatigue and cough can last many weeks.
Here’s how you can help your child stay healthy:
Have your child get a flu vaccine every year, as soon as it is available in your area. This is your child’s best chance to avoid the flu. The CDC recommends that infants and children get flu vaccines beginning at age 6 months. A nasal spray made of weakened virus is not recommended for the 2017-2018 flu season. The CDC says the nasal spray did not seem to protect against the flu over the last several flu seasons.
Help your child wash his or her hands often.
Don't let your child drink from the same cup that others have used. And don’t share foods.
Teach your children to cough or sneeze into their elbow, sleeve, or a tissue. Teach them to wash their hands afterward.
Give your child plenty of fluids, such as an electrolyte solution, water, juice, and soup.
Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
Keep your child at home to prevent the spread of germs. Do so until at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.
Use children’s strength medicine for symptoms. Discuss over-the-counter (OTC) medicines with your child's healthcare provider before using them. Note: Don’t give OTC cough and cold medicines to a child younger than age 6, unless your child's healthcare provider tells you to do so.
Don’t give your child aspirin.
Don’t give ibuprofen to an infant age 6 months or younger.
Ask your child’s provider about antiviral medicine. If taken within the first 2 days of the flu, it can help your child have fewer symptoms and get well sooner.
Call your child's healthcare provider if your otherwise healthy child has:
Fever (see Fever and children, below)
Shortness of breath or fast breathing
Worsening symptoms, especially after a period of improvement
Trouble waking up or is not alert
Had a seizure caused by the fever
Fever with rash
Severe or continued vomiting
Signs of dehydration. These include decreased urination (diapers not as wet as usual in a baby or toddler), dry mouth, and no tears when crying.
Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.
For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.
Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.
Infant under 3 months old:
Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.
Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Child age 3 to 36 months:
Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Child of any age:
Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.
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