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Parents’ 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Flu

Remember that the best way to protect yourself and your family is to take basic preventive measures such as washing your hands, avoiding sick people and getting your family vaccinated.

Please consider this information before calling or visiting your doctor.

1) Does my child have the flu?

The classic symptoms of the flu are a fever with a cough and a sore throat. If your child has flu symptoms and it is widespread in the community, he or she probably has it. Your child doesn’t need any special tests to reach this conclusion. Currently only patients who need hospitalization are tested.

If your child has a sore throat with a fever and doesn’t develop a cough, he or she may need to be checked for Strep throat.

2) How can I make my child feel better?

The treatment of the flu depends on your child’s main symptoms. To open a blocked nose, use a nasal wash with saline. For a cough, use one to two teaspoons of honey (do not use for children under one year old). Ibuprofen will help a sore throat. To prevent dehydration, encourage extra fluids.

  • Download our influenza handout with information about treating flu symptoms - in English or en Espanol.

3) My child hurts everywhere. Is that serious?

The flu can cause soreness everywhere: headache, back pain, chest pain and leg pain. To soothe sore muscles, give ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. To prevent stomach irritation, always administer pain medication with food. If pain is severe and lasts more than 90 minutes after taking ibuprofen, your child probably should see a doctor.

4) Does my child need to see a doctor?

For serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, rapid breathing or dehydration, bring your child to the doctor immediately. For non-urgent symptoms such as an earache or sinus pain, go to the doctor within 24 hours. Most healthy children with the flu don’t develop any of these complications and can easily be treated at home.

5) Does my child need Tamiflu?

The CDC recommends Tamiflu for anyone who develops severe symptoms or for high risk children with any flu symptoms. High risk children are those with underlying chronic health problems or healthy children under two years old. Tamiflu is not helpful if more than 48 hours have passed since the start of the flu symptoms. If your child is healthy and over age two, he or she should do fine without Tamiflu.

6) How should I treat a fever of 102˚ to 104˚F?

A high fever is over 104˚F; a fever is alarming when it’s over 105˚F. Fevers are not harmful. In fact, they turn on the body’s immune system and help fight infections. So if your child is sick, having a fever is beneficial. Only treat fevers above 102˚F.

  • Get more fever information.

7) It’s been three days, so why does my child still have a fever?

Fever caused by the flu viruses normally lasts two or three days. If the fever lasts more than three days (72 hours), your child may need to see a doctor. More importantly, if the fever goes away for more than 24 hours, then returns, bring your child to the doctor. He or she may have a secondary bacterial infection such as an ear infection.

8) Can I alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen?

It’s rarely necessary and we don’t recommend it. If your child’s doctor recommends it, however, we suggest you only do it for fevers over 104˚F that do not come down 2 degrees with one medicine alone. To safely alternate fever medication, administer every four hours, changing between Tylenol and ibuprofen each time. To avoid the risk of overdose, do not alternate medicines for more than 24 hours.

  • Do not give aspirin if your child or teen has the flu. 
  • Get information about acetaminophen and ibuprofen drug dosage.

9) The fever is gone; why is my child still coughing?

Fever disappears when the immune system starts producing antibodies to fight the virus. The cough normally continues for two or three weeks due to a damaged lining of the throat and windpipe. Recent research showed that honey was more effective at quieting coughs than over-the-counter cough medicines. If coughing is non-stop and interferes with normal activities, however, your child should see a doctor to rule out underlying asthma. 10% of children have asthma and it can be well controlled with asthma medicines.

10) What should I do if my child is vomiting?

Treat with small amounts of clear fluids every 5 to 10 minutes. If your child becomes dehydrated or if isolated vomiting without diarrhea lasts more than 48 hours, your child should see a doctor. If your child only vomits after taking Tamiflu, try to hide the bitter flavor in foods such as chocolate syrup. If vomiting continues, your doctor may need to stop the Tamiflu.