When children get sick with the flu, their parents and caregivers tend to suffer, too.
Besides worrying about the symptoms and the discomfort that the sickness brings to your little one, you also feel torn with indecision on whether to call a pediatrician in the wee hours of the evening or not.
You may also get a sense of helplessness when the child is having a hard time breathing or crying because of aching muscles and high fever. And then there’s also the concern over the possible spread of the virus to the rest of your household.
Flu is not fun, and that’s a fact.
If you would rather have your child enjoying some playground fun than lying sick in bed, study up about the illness. This way, you would know what to do to prevent it.
From flu prevention for kids to its proper treatment, this article covers everything you need to know about the illness.
Flu and Its Symptoms
Influenza, more popularly known as “the flu,” is a respiratory virus that is highly contagious and comes on quite suddenly. It can last a few days to two weeks, with symptoms developing within one week from exposure.
Although children are more susceptibleto the illness because of their still-developing immune system, anyone can get sick with the flu. Young or old, the symptoms of this sickness include any or all of the following:
- Fever higher than 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher, often accompanied by chills and lasting several days
- Aching muscles or body ache
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Eye pain (i.e., sensitivity to light or a burning sensation during eye movement)
Although uncommon in adults, gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea can emerge in young patients. And because it is caused by a virus, the flu cannot be treated using antibiotics (more on this later).
Flu vs. Cold: Identifying Which Is Which
One of the most common challenges of caring for a flu patient is the diagnosis. Although it can be done by a licensed medical practitioner, determining what your child is sick with the moment he starts to feel ill significantly affects the speed of his recovery.
One of the typical conditions mistaken as the flu is the common cold. Although both are respiratory illnesses, the flu and the common cold develop from different viruses. What makes it difficult to discern one from the other is the similarity of the symptoms they come with.
Generally, flu symptoms are worse than a common cold, with higher occurrence and intensity. Colds are milder and may only come with a stuffy or runny nose without resulting in more serious health issues like bacterial infections, pneumonia, or hospitalization.
The onset is different, and the occurrence of symptoms varies. Unlike colds which are quite common, the flu comes on suddenly.
Plus, fever, chills, headache, weakness or fatigue, and body pains are common in with the flu, but not with colds.
How to Protect Children from the Flu? 4 Pedia-Approved Tips
During the flu season, pediatricians typically see a sudden rise of traffic in their clinics as more youngsters become infected with the sickness. This is why some of these doctors who specialize in pediatric medicine have offered some tips for protecting the little ones (and even the bigger children) from catching the illness.
1.Get them vaccinated
There’s been a debate about the pros and cons of immunization, but medical professionals stand by the fact that vaccination prevents flu in children. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting the flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu.
Records show that the vaccine effectively reduces children’s risks of getting ill. The international health authority also recommends that children aged six months and up get a flu shot every year.
Of course, children aren’t the only ones who should get the shot. To end the battle against this illness once and for all, everyone – including you and other people living in your household – must get vaccinated annually, too. By doing so, you reduce your risk of getting the virus and are therefore less likely to spread it to your child.
2.Teach proper personal hygiene
Another crucial step in protecting your child from the flu is to teach him proper personal hygiene.
In general, handwashing helps prevent germ-caused illnesses. Most viruses enter the body via the hands. Since children are constantly touching their eyes, nose, or mouth, they must establish a habit of proper handwashing.
Tell him to rub his hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Make it more fun by singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice or reciting the alphabet.
Also, remind him to always wash his hands during key moments, including:
- Food handling (beforeand after)
- Before eating
- After flushing or using the toilet
- Before and after visiting someone who is sick
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing his nose
- After touching pets, their food, or their waste
- After throwing garbage in the bin or touching trash
It would also be good to tell him to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean his hands if he doesn’t have access to soap and water.
3.Establish healthy habits
Aside from frequent handwashing, you must also teach healthy habits to your child. These include:
- Avoiding touching his eyes, nose, and mouth
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Exercising regularly or staying physically active
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Eating nutritious food
On top of that, you should also make sure that you clean high-touch surfaces like desks, phones, doorknobs, computer keyboards, faucets, and buttons. If your child is old enough to understand, remind him to be wary of these hot spots.
4.Keep him away from sick people or make him stay home if he’s sick
When you try to power through the flu, you end up making the sickness get worse and increase the risk of its spread. This is also true for children.
Avoid giving him fever-reducing medicine, only to send him off to school. Let him rest and avoid contact with others while he is sick. He can go back to school after he has spent 24 hours without fever, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Similarly, you should also keep him away from sick people. If it can be helped, don’t bring children when visiting the hospital.
While prevention is so much better than cure, you still need to be prepared should your child catch the influenza virus.
In general, the flu takes 10 days or more to run its course, with symptoms lasting between five to seven days. Doctor-prescribed medicine, along with enough rest, fluids, and nourishment, should be able to help your child feel better sooner.
Generally, antiviral drugs can be used according to his doctor’s recommendations, but not antibiotics which are meant to combat bacteria.
When using antiviral drugs, it would be best to start two days after becoming sick with the flu. Of course, starting later can still be helpful.
You can also choose to ease the symptoms with cough medicine for children, especially if he has a hard time sleeping because of his cough. Don’t forget to follow the doctor’s instructions when making children take these medications.
Shoo Away Flu
When a child is sick with the flu, it is as much his parents’ or caregivers’ battle as it is his. From prevention to treatment, shoo away the flu in any way you can to make sure that the little ones stay healthy and happy.