Dealing with the flu 

Young children generally end up with many illnesses throughout the year, but the flu is an especially nasty virus that can knock the energy out of even the most active toddler. And while you’ve almost certainly had the flu yourself once or twice, helping your little one through the same thing is a very different experience.

The flu (short for “influenza”) is a viral infection that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Typically, the time of year when the flu seems to be just about everywhere comes any time between October and April, but it’s possible to come down with the flu any time of year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young children often need medical care for the flu, and serious complications are most common in children under 2 years old. This means it’s important to know what to look for in terms of symptoms, and how to appropriately treat the virus to avoid more complications.

Flu symptoms

Often confused with the common cold, flu symptoms are generally more severe than the same symptoms when they’re caused by a cold. A child with a cold may have a low-grade fever, runny nose, and coughing as their main symptoms. In the flu, those symptoms often show up, but can be accompanied by other symptoms, including:

  • Muscle or body aches
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Treating your child’s symptoms

At this age, if you think your child has the flu, it’s a good idea to check in with their pediatrician. The virus will probably run its course in about a week. Your child’s doctor will probably make these suggestions for getting your little one back to good health:

  • Fluids: Lack of appetite is common with the flu, so to avoid dehydration, it’s important to make sure your child is consuming plenty of fluids.  
  • Rest: Since they will probably not have their usual energy level, encourage lots of downtime and extra naps to help them heal.
  • Medications: If they complain of body aches or has a high fever, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce the discomfort. Ask your child’s doctor about dosing instructions.

For a child who is congested, saline spray, and a nasal syringe can help clear mucus from their stuffy nose. A humidifier can also help them breathe easier.

Serious Symptoms

Call the doctor right away if your child:

  • Has a fever above 104 degrees
  • Seems difficult to rouse
  • Is not consuming enough fluids or shows signs of dehydration like tearless crying, no urine or small amounts of very dark urine, or dry or cool skin
  • Develops any type of rash
  • Has difficulty breathing

Preventing the flu 

The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for children, since young children are considered most at risk for developing complications from the virus. Children can be vaccinated against the flu as early as 6 months, and children who have not been vaccinated in the past will need two doses of the vaccine.  Speak to your child’s pediatrician about when the vaccine will be available, and what is recommended in terms of providing full protection for them against the virus.

  • “Flu Information for Parents with Young Children.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, August 20 2015. Web.

Related Topics

Get the Ovia Parenting app
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store