When your young child has swine flu
Flu - young child; Influenza - young child
What to Expect at Home
The flu is an infection of the nose, throat, and (sometimes) lungs. Your young child will have a fever of 100 °F or higher and a sore throat or a cough. Other symptoms you may notice:
- Chills, sore muscles, and headache
- Runny nose
- Acting tired and cranky much of the time
- Diarrhea and vomiting
When your child's fever goes down, many of these symptoms should get better.
Eating and Drinking
Your child should drink plenty of fluids.
- Do not give your child too much fruit or apple juice. Dilute these drinks by making them one half water and one half juice.
- Popsicles or gelatin (Jello) are good choices, especially if the child is vomiting.
Your child can eat foods while having a fever, but do not force the child to eat.
Children with the flu usually tolerate bland foods better. A bland diet is made up of foods that are soft, not very spicy, and low in fiber. You may try:
- Breads, crackers, and pasta made with refined white flour
- Refined hot cereals, such as oatmeal and cream of wheat
Treating Your Child's Fever
Do NOT bundle up a child with blankets or extra clothes, even if your child has the chills. This may keep their fever from coming down, or make it higher.
- Try one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket for sleep.
- The room should be comfortable, not too hot or too cool. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever in children. Sometimes doctors advise you to use both types of medicine.
- In children under 3 months of age, call your doctor first before giving medicines.
- Know how much your child weighs, then always check the instructions on the package.
- Take acetaminophen every 4 - 6 hours.
- Take ibuprofen every 6 - 8 hours. Do NOT use ibuprofen in children younger than 6 months old.
- Do NOT give aspirin to children unless your child's doctor tells you to use it.
A fever does not need to come all the way down to normal. Most children will feel better when the temperature drops by even one degree.
A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool a fever.
- It works better if the child also receives medicine -- otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.
- Do NOT use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs. These often make the situation worse by causing shivering.
There are 2 types of flu vaccine that will be available. One is given as a shot, the other is sprayed into your child's nose (if they are 2 or older).
Even if your child has had a flu-like illness, they should still get the flu vaccine.
If enough flu vaccine is available, all children 6 months or older should receive the vaccine.
Some children are at more risk for a severe case of the flu. It is more important that these children receive the vaccine:
- Children 6 months through 4 years of age
- Children ages 5 -18 who have long-term medical problems
- Children who are taking aspirin every day
Children may need a second flu vaccine around 4 weeks after receiving the first vaccine.
When to Call the Doctor
Talk to your child's doctor or go to the emergency room when:
- Your child does not act alert or more comfortable when their fever goes down
- Fever and flu symptoms come back after they had gone away
- There are no tears when they're crying
- Their diapers are not wet, or they have not urinated for the last 8 hours
Call 911 if your child has a fever and:
- Is crying and cannot be calmed down (children)
- Cannot be awakened easily or at all
- Seems confused
- Cannot walk
- Has difficulty breathing, even after their nose is cleared
- Has blue lips, tongue, or nails
- Has a very bad headache
- Has a stiff neck
- Refuses to move an arm or leg (children)
- Has a seizure
- Has a new rash or bruises appear
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What to do if you get sick: 2009 H1N1 and seasonal flusite. September 18, 2009. Accessed July 31 2009.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of iInfluenza A (H1N1) 2009 monovalent vaccine recommendations of the advisory committee on immunization practices (ACIP). National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC, MMWR. August 21, 2009: 58(Early Release);1-8 Acessed September 22, 2009.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.