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Children and the Flu

How can I help prevent my child from getting the flu?

The best ways to protect your children from any flu virus, including the swine flu, also known as H1N1, are the same as for any strain of the flu. Topping the list is getting your child vaccinated, as well as proper and frequent hand washing, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

  • Teach children to clean their hands after they cough or sneeze, and after they’ve been in public places
  • Show your children how to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their inner elbows, not their hands. Tissues should be thrown into the trash
  • Remind them not to touch their mouth, nose, and eyes with their hands, and not to share anything that someone else has had near their face, such as water bottles, lip balm, or towels.
  • Don’t share towels, cups, silverware, etc. at home.

How do I know if my child has the flu or just a cold?

The flu is very different from the common cold. Typically, a child who has significant nasal symptoms, but no fever, likely has a cold.

Symptoms of both the swine flu and the regular seasonal flu in children usually come on suddenly and include:

  • sudden fever
  • chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue

More serious cases may also include vomiting, difficulty breathing, and lethargy, which should be reported to your doctor immediately.

What should I do if my child seems to have the flu?

If you think your child has the flu, call your pediatrician for advice. Your doctor can help you decide whether your child needs to be seen or if they need to be tested or treated for the flu.

With mild cases of the flu in otherwise healthy children, it is best to care for your child at home and limit contact with others. The flu is caused by a virus, so antibiotics will not help. However, in children with some chronic medical conditions, antiviral medication taken soon after infection might help shorten the duration of the illness and reduce the chance for more serious complications.

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids.
  • Children’s strength acetaminophen, like Tylenol, or ibuprofen, like Motrin or Advil, may be used to help reduce your child’s fever and body aches. Be sure to follow dosage instructions carefully.
  • Never give a child aspirin or aspirin-containing products.
  • If your child has more severe symptoms, such as a high fever that does not respond to home treatment, continued vomiting, difficulty breathing, or inattention to his or her surroundings, call your pediatrician immediately.
  • If your child is less than three months old, or has a chronic medical condition, you should call your doctor at the first sign of flu symptoms.
  • Children with the flu should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever subsides.