Signs it’s More Than a Cold, and How to Treat the Flu

Flu 315

Flu is definitely here and running rampant. Carolinas Medical Center just put into place a policy that kids under 12 years old cannot go visit family in the hospital to prevent the spread of infection.

If you are wondering if your child has the flu, Dr. Shivani Mehta, a pedicatrican at Myers Park Pediatrics, offers this advice on recognizing the difference between a cold and the flu, and tips on how to treat both.

Q: What are three to five signs it’s more than cold, and could be the flu?

Dr. Mehta: Colds and the flu are both respiratory infections and have a lot of similarities. The flu tends to be worse and come on fast, causing higher fever, body ache, headache, tiredness, sore throat and more dry cough than wet cough. Kids with colds tend to have more runny and stuffy noses.

Q: When should a parent see a doctor if they suspect the flu?

Dr. Mehta:
 The flu is very contagious one day before symptoms up to five to seven days after first getting sick. Children with mild to moderate flu like symptoms to do not need to see the doctor, and this also helps us prevent the spread of the flu. Always call your doctor’s office to discuss your child’s symptoms and get advice before making an appointment if you are worried about the flu.

Signs your child may need to see a healthcare provider:

• High fever for more than three days

• Your child looks or acts very sick.

• Breathing is getting faster or harder, or you hear wheezing.

• Your child is dehydrated (no urine in 12 hours, no tears, dry mouth, not keeping down any fluids).

• You are having a hard time keeping your child awake.

• Your child is very irritable and doesn’t want to be held.

• The flu symptoms improve and then your child gets a new fever or worse cough.

• Your child has a chronic illness like asthma, sickle cell disease, heart problems, cancer, or diabetes.

• High risk children can potentially get an antiviral medicine from the doctor, but this is most effective if given in the first 48 hours of illness and shortens the illness duration by a day or two. Antibiotics will not help the flu because it is a virus, not a bacteria.

• Seek emergency care if your child is very short of breathe or has a severe headache.

• If you think you have the flu and go to the doctor’s office or emergency room, ask them for a mask to put on your child so they don’t spread it to others waiting to be seen.

Q: What can a parent do to treat a child with the flu, keep them comfortable?

Dr. Mehta: Give your child plenty of fluids including oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte, broth or popsicles. Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and pain control (no aspirin for kids), get plenty of rest.

For kids over 12 months old you can use a spoonful of honey to help sore throats and cough. Stay home to prevent others from catching the illness. No return to school or work until you have had no fever for 24 hours without medicines.

Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Clean your hands after coughing and sneezing with soap and water or an alcohol based sanitizer. Your child should start to feel better in three to five days. Fever will break first. Then their appetite will come back. Sometimes the cough and body ache can linger for a week or two.

If your child is less than 6 months old, they are too young to get the flu shot but the rest of the family should get immunized. If your child is 6 months or older, they (and the whole family) should get a flu shot … it’s not too late! It doesn’t kick in completely for two weeks but is effective against major strains of influenza. However, it does not protect against all flu strains so still be careful during this season and around people that are sick. Avoid close contact to people who are sick. Wash your hands often especially before touching your mouth and nose and before eating. Avoid touching your face a lot.

Here’s wishing good health for you and your family during this sick season!