Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
If the flu is occurring during flu season, the doctor may judge the child to have flu simply from observing the classic symptoms such as fever, listlessness, and breathing problems in the upper respiratory tract.
The doctor may take swabs of mucus from the nose or throat and send them for laboratory analysis. Several rapid diagnostic kits are now available with a fairly high degree of accuracy.
Sometimes a chest X-ray film may be taken to make sure the child does not have pneumonia.
Flu symptoms may last more than a week. Caregivers can relieve and soothe children's aches and pains with basic home care.
Rest in bed.
Allow the child to drink lots of fluids of the child's choice.
Treat fever with
acetaminophen (Children's Tylenol, Infant's Feverall, Junior Strength Panadol) or ibuprofen (Children's Advil, Children's Motrin) taken according to package instructions or consult the child's doctor.
Do not give aspirin because it poses a risk of causing Reye's syndrome.
Use a humidifier in the child's room to make dry air easier to breathe.
Children may need more careful attention for these symptoms.
Runny nose: Younger infants usually breathe through their nose and cannot breathe through the mouth. Even older children have difficulty breathing through the mouth and sucking on something at the same time. Therefore, it is very important that the child's nose should be clean before feeding and before putting the child to sleep.
Suctioning is the method to clean the nose. For younger infants, use a rubber suction bulb to remove the secretions gently. Older children can blow their noses, but forceful blowing can push the secretions into the ear tubes or
sinuses. Encourage the use of tissues and gentle nose blowing.
Dry or stuffy nose: It is important to remember that most stuffy noses are blocked by dry mucus. Blowing or sniffling alone cannot remove dry mucus. Use of saline nose drops is helpful in loosening the mucus. These nose drops are available at most drugstores. One minute after using the nose drops, use a soft rubber suction bulb to gently suck out the loosened mucus.