Jan 20, 2015

Dr. Gellner: It's flu season and it's hitting hard already. How can your help your child if they get the flu? I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner, and that's today on The Scope.

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Dr. Gellner: So the flu is going around, especially influenza A. There is a mutated influenza A virus that is, unfortunately, not covered in this year's flu vaccines. The flu viruses change yearly, which is why people can get the flu every year.
So if your child gets the flu, how can you help them feel better? So the flu symptoms are a little bit different for everybody, but most of the symptoms are fevers, body aches that are way worse than it would be with a regular cold, cough, hoarse voice, sore throat, stuffy or blocked up nose, and dehydration because you can't eat or drink very well.

If your child has the flu, you need to be sure to use Tylenol or Motrin to help with the discomfort or fever. Fevers are going to be over 102 degrees with influenza. Make sure that you never give your child aspirin because it can cause a deadly illness called Reye Syndrome.

If your child has a cough and they are over 6 years old, you can give them cough drops. Make sure, if your child has never had a cough drop before, you explain to them how to suck on the cough drop so that they don't inhale it and choke on it.

If your child is over 1 year of age, you can give them honey. Just give it on a spoon and just let them take it as often as they need to, to help the cough. Never give honey to babies. It can cause something serious called botulism. For babies over 4 months old and older kids, warm liquids, like chicken soup, also help.

If your child has a sore throat, give them Tylenol or Motrin, and you can let them suck on hard candies if they're old enough, or you can also use those warm liquids to help with the sore throat. You can also give cold things like popsicles and soft things like yogurt to help with the sore throat. That will also help keep them hydrated.

For a stuffy or blocked nose, the best thing you can do is give them nasal saline drops. You can have them use the saline drops up to four times a day. More than that, you're actually going to irritate the nose a little bit too much, but use the saline that much and help them blow their nose. Use the bulb sucker to suction out the mucus in children who cannot quite blow their nose yet. You can buy the saline spray without a prescription, or you can also make it by adding half of a teaspoon of table salt to 8 ounces of warm, distilled water. You can put 3 drops of saline in your child's nose before they blow their nose, and that will help loosen up the mucus.

Anytime your body is fighting off a virus, there is the risk of dehydration because your body needs more fluids than normal, and your child isn't probably going to want to eat or drink much. You need to really encourage them to drink adequate fluids to prevent dehydration.
So how long does the flu last? Well, the fever with the flu lasts for two to three days, the runny or stuffy nose from one to two weeks, and the cough can linger for two to three weeks.

Your child can actually return to daycare or school after the fever is gone and they are feeling up to it, meaning their body aches are controlled, they're not coughing to the point where they are disruptive to their own learning or other students learning, and they can keep themselves hydrated.

Children who are considered high risk for complications from the flu are those who are asthmatic, who have heart disease, muscle diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, diabetic children, kids with sickle cell disease or kidney disease, kids with cancer or other immune system diseases, children who need long-term aspirin therapy, like rheumatoid arthritis (that's about the only time you should ever give your child Aspirin), teens who are pregnant, or babies who are less than 2 years old, especially our preemie babies.

If your child is having trouble breathing or is acting very sick, dehydrated, or they are in the high risk group and you really are making sure that they're not having any complications from those underlying diseases, then you should definitely have your child seen by your pediatrician.

Again, influenza A is hitting hard, and we only expect it to get worse as the season goes on. Be sure to keep your child free from as many viruses as they can by practicing good hand hygiene, keeping them as healthy as they can be, making sure they eat their fruits and vegetables, and if your child does get sick, keep them comfortable and know when to call your doctor.

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