April 17, 2014
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Flu (Seasonal)

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When your child has the flu: How to help

When your child has the flu: How to help

It's not easy when your child has the flu (influenza). As a parent, you want to do all you can to protect them and make them feel safe. The flu can cause sickness that is uncomfortable.

You may notice the following flu symptoms in your child:

  • Sudden onset of cough
  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea (sometimes)

Imagine how difficult it is for a child experiencing these symptoms: they may not understand what is happening to them and they may be upset, worried, and anxious. Your child may also express other feelings or behaviours such as:

  • Being afraid of being alone or separated from family members
  • Crying
  • Whining
  • Irritability
  • Unusual bedwetting
  • Being more stubborn or agitated
  • Nightmares and sleeping problems

You can take a number of steps to help your child feel better as you provide home care for them.

Provide physical comfort. You can encourage your child to focus on getting better. Symptom relief can be found from:

  • Pain killers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications relieve fever, body aches, and headaches. Do not give cough and cold medications to children 6 years old and younger. Do not give acetylsalicylic acid to children 18 years old and younger. Ask your pharmacist to help you pick the appropriate pain killer for your child.
     
  • Cough syrup, for children older than 6 years old. A cough can be relieved with cough medication. Ask your pharmacist which one is appropriate for your child.
     
  • Drinking plenty of water, juice, and soup.
     
  • Getting plenty of rest.
     
  • Antiviral medication, which you can get from your child's doctor. Antiviral medications taken within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms can reduce the risk of flu complications, reduce symptoms, and shorten the length of the flu. Young children are more likely to develop severe complications from the flu, such as breathing problems or a lung infection. You should consider bringing them to the doctor as soon as they show flu symptoms to see if antiviral medication is appropriate.

Provide emotional comfort. Because the flu can be upsetting to a child, it's important to reassure them that there are things they can do to stay healthy and that they are safe.

  • Reassure and comfort your child so they feel safe and secure. Give them a hug. Tell them that it's okay and normal to be upset.
     
  • Surround your child with their favourite things. If they are lying in bed or on the sofa, make sure that their favourite blanket, toy, book, or stuffed animal is there too. And keep things your child will need, such as tissues and a wastebasket, close by.
     
  • Maintain routine in the household. Spend more family time together and stick with routines and schedules that are familiar to your child, such as family meals and regular bedtimes. This can increase your child's sense of security.
     
  • Listen to your child. Children need to talk about their feelings in order to make sense of stressful situations, like getting the flu. Let them ask questions and answer them as honestly as you can, making sure the information is appropriate for their age.

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