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Flu: A Guide for Parents
The flu (influenza) is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs that is caused by influenza virus. The flu can spread from person to person. Most people with flu are sick for about a week, but then feel better. However, some people (especially young children, pregnant women, older people and people with chronic health problems) can get very sick and some can die.
Most people with the flu feel tired and have fever (usually high), headache, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and sore muscles. Some people, especially children, may also have stomach problems and diarrhea. Cough can last two or more weeks.
People that have the flu usually cough, sneeze and have a runny nose. This makes droplets with virus in them. Other people can get the flu by breathing in these droplets, getting them in their nose or mouth, or touching contaminated surfaces.
Healthy adults may be able to spread the flu from one day before getting sick to up to five days after getting sick. This can be longer in children and in people who don’t fight disease as well (people with weakened immune systems).
A flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu. CDC recommends that all children from the ages of 6 months up to their 19th birthday get a flu vaccine every fall or winter (children getting a vaccine for the first time need two doses).
There are antiviral drugs for children 1 year and older that can make your child feel better and get better sooner. But these drugs need to be approved by a doctor. They should be started during the first two days that your child is sick for them to work best. Your doctor can discuss with you if these drugs are right for your child. What Can YOU Do?
Tell your child to:
Washing hands with soap and water (for as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice) will help protect your child from many different germs. When soap and water are not available, wipes or gels with alcohol in them can be used (the gels should be rubbed into your hands until they are dry).
Consult your doctor and make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks a lot of fluids. Some over-the-counter medicines are available without a prescription. Be careful with these medicines and follow the instructions on the package. Over-the-counter cough and cold preparations should not be given to children younger than 4 years old. Also, you should never give aspirin or medicine that has aspirin in it to children or teenagers who may have the flu.
Call or take your child to a doctor right away if your child:
No. Your child should stay home to rest and to avoid giving the flu to other children.
It is not unusual for some children in school to get sick during the winter months. If many children get sick, it is up to you to decide whether to send your child to school. You might want to check with your doctor, especially if your child has other health problems.
Keep your child home from school until his or her temperature has been normal for 24 hours. Remind your child to cover his or her mouth when coughing or sneezing to protect others (you may want to send some tissue and wipes or gels with alcohol in them to school with your child).
Last Update: October 2008Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention