Loyola Medicine expert provides guidance on how to keep children safe from flu

Just as children are heading back to school after the winter break, the flu season has arrived.

Loyola Medicine pediatrician Bridget Boyd, MD, has some advice for parents on how to help their child fend off the flu and what to do if they do get sick.

First, it's never too late to get the flu shot. After receiving the shot, it only takes one to two weeks for the antibody response to begin working. It's recommended that children ages six months and older receive the flu shot.

"Children and the elderly are the most at risk for serious complications from the flu," Dr. Boyd said. "That's why we always stress the importance of getting the flu shot."

Schools are a perfect place for infectious diseases to thrive, so it's important for parents to be vigilant when it comes to their child's health.

This is also a good time to stress to children the importance of washing their hands, using tissues and coughing into their elbow. This will help children from spreading germs to their family and friends.

"A great way for kids to learn how to properly wash their hands is to have them sing the 'Happy Birthday' song twice,'" Dr. Boyd said.

If your child gets the flu, don't panic.

Flu symptoms tend to come on abruptly and affect the entire body. Symptoms include:

  • a high fever
  • intense chills
  • body aches
  • exhaustion
  • a constant, unproductive cough

"If children are exhibiting flu symptoms, it's important they not go to school or daycare and possibly spread the virus," Dr. Boyd said.

When it comes to treatment of the flu, age and size are a factor, she said.

  • For children between the ages of four and six years, over-the-counter cough and cold medicine should only be administered under a physician's supervision.
  • For children older than six, parents should be careful to read medication labels because age is only part of the equation; many of the dosage recommendations are based on weight.
  • Children of all ages can get relief from a warm mist humidifier.
  • Children 3 months to 12 months old should be given warm, clear fluids such as water, apple juice and an oral electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte.
  • Children who are older than one year old can be given a half to a full teaspoon of honey, which is a natural cough suppressant that helps thin secretions.
  • Children older than 6 years can be given cough drops.

Children are safe to go back to school or daycare when they no longer have a fever 24 hours after they last took fever-suppressing medication.

"Remember, antibiotics do not stop or limit viral infections such as the flu," Boyd said. "If you suspect your child has the flu, talk to your pediatrician about medications that may lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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