The 5 F’s of FLU season! : Combating the Fever, Fatigue, Frustration, and Fear of one nasty Flu virus.
It is that time of year again. The flu is here. That dreaded beast that will run through schools and families alike and leave you and your kids down for the count.
In my house everyone gets the vaccine. Between working in the ER and a kid in preschool there is no hiding from germs in my life. It doesn’t give complete protection, but it is a great start and it isn’t too late. Oh, and wash those hands, and again, and again!
Here are some ways to recognize and help kids with flu.
1) FLU includes some combination of fever, cough or runny nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue/loss of energy, decreased appetite. Not every kid (or parent) will have every symptom.
2) FEVER! is a big one here. Fever helps the body fight the infection. You do not have to treat every fever. Kids who are happy, playful, or sleeping comfortably should be left alone. Kids who are uncomfortable, wont drink, are crying a lot or just look sick to you should get acetaminophen (any age) or ibuprofen (>6months old). Use a weight based dose or follow the instruction of your nurse, doctor, or pharmacist.
3) FATIGUE! You and your child will be tired and cranky. Sleep is important for you and your child. Sleep when they sleep because you might be up all night or you might catch it too. Just like a newborn, a sick child rules the roost.
4) FRUSTRATION!!! I hate when my son is sick and I can’t do anything about it. The sad little face looking up at you. “Fix me mommy!” That feeling of helplessness is awful. You are not alone. Here are some tricks:
- Muscle aches: try ibuprofen and a warm bath
- Headaches: ibuprofen for this too and rest in a cool quiet dark room
- Cough: try honey (>1years old). A small spoonful will ease the throat and put a smile on that little face. Avoid commercial cough medicine unless your doctor recommends it.
- Congestion: Saline spray/drops and bulb suction. Your child will hate you during but love you after. This may take 4 hands. Kids vapor type rubs can help. Use as directed.
- Appetite: Your child likely won’t eat much solid foods. That is ok. Encourage lots of fluids, any kind is fine, even milk (>1year old give only breast-milk, formula, or Pedialyte type drink). Avoid caffeine. This is a great time to make some homemade yogurt fruit smoothies or freeze your own juice pops etc. For some kids, you have to tell them to drink rather then offering, it can’t be a choice. My son has responded to small amounts of fluid in a medicine syringe or cup every few minutes during past illnesses.
5) FEAR!!!! The flu can be scary. Fevers will often be very high 104+. Here are a few thoughts on when to call your doctor or seek emergency care.
- Your child may warrant treatment with special mediations if they are <2yrs old, have asthma or lung disease, heart disease, a weakened immune system, problems with muscle or the nervous system or other chronic disease. Vaccine is best in these children but if you think your young or special child has the flu, seek care. Treatment is most helpful in the first 1-2 days of symptoms.
- Fevers that are >104.5, don’t respond to medications, or last longer then 5 days
- Difficulty breathing
- Your child cannot respond to you in a normal way
- Strange rashes or bruises
- Dehydrated or wont drink even when forced
- Your child starts to get better after a few days, but then fever returns or other symptoms worsen
- Your gut tells you that something else might be going on
Hang in there! It won’t last forever, it may feel like it, but it won’t.