Flu is an infection of the lungs, throat and nose that is caused by one of the many strains of the influenza virus. Although there are multiple strains of this virus, some of them are more prominent in a given year and flu infections are most likely to occur during the period of time known as the flu season which takes place from October to February.
Although the flu is rarely serious for healthy adults, it can be dangerous for young children. In fact, every year around 20,000 children who are under the age of 5 will be hospitalized due to the complications of flu and one of the most common complications is pneumonia. Watch out for the signs of baby flu so that best treatments could be taken.
Symptoms of Baby Flu
Sometimes it is not as easy as you would like to tell if your baby has the flu. There are certain symptoms, however, that generally indicate it. The main symptoms are:
- A fever that has a sudden onset and is usually at least 101 degrees Fahrenheit (which is 38.3 degrees Celsius)
- Fatigue and chills which are then followed by respiratory symptoms including a dry cough and runny nose
- Other common symptoms of the flu in young children include having a poor appetite and irritability. Although diarrhea and vomiting are less common symptoms, they can also be a part of the flu.
Notes: If the congestion or coughing starts a while before your child gets a fever, then he most likely has a cold and not the flu.
How to Deal with Baby Flu
If you have a baby with the flu, you should follow the advice of the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control).
For Children Under 5
They recommend that if your child is under 5 (which includes babies) or has other medical conditions including neurological problems, diabetes or asthma that you talk to your doctor immediately. This is crucial because young children have an increased risk of developing complications when they have the flu. In some cases they will need antiviral drugs (which can be used on babies two weeks old and older) and these should ideally be started within the first day or two of the illness for the best results.
For Children Over 5
If your child is no longer a baby and is over five and healthy, there are not any immediate dangers. You can consult your doctor as you feel the need and just do your best to make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids and gets enough rest. If you ever have any concerns no matter the age of your child, talk to your doctor.
How to Protect Your Family From Infection?
There are several important steps that you can take to help protect your family from the possibility of being infected with the flu:
1. Get Flu Vaccine
Have everyone in the family as well as the caregivers get their flu vaccine immediately when it is available. It does take some time for immunity to develop after getting the vaccine so it is important to get it right away. The CDC recommends that everyone who is healthy gets the vaccination annually after six months of age.
2. Wash Hands Properly
Always wash both your hands and those of your children frequently. This includes before you eat, after you sneeze and after you use the bathroom. When washing your hands, make sure to do so properly by rubbing your soapy hands on both sides for 15 seconds or more and then rinsing with water. If you do not have soap on hand, use an alcohol-based gel sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol or opt for disposable hand wipes.
3. Cough/ Sneeze Properly
Avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands whenever possible. When you do this, the virus will get onto your hands, making it much easier to spread. The best thing to do when sneezing or coughing is to use your arm to cover your mouth and then cough or sneeze directly into your sleeve. You can also use a disposable tissue although some experts prefer the sleeve method as you will need to handle the tissue after using it and this can contaminate your hands. If you do use your bare hands for any reason, immediately wash them afterwards.
4. Never Touch Your Mouth, Nose or Eyes
Even if you think your hands are currently clean, that is probably not the case. Anytime you touch something that someone with the virus previously touched (such as a door knob, refrigerator handle or cup), the virus will be transmitted to your hands and this can lead to infection.
5. Clean Household Surfaces with Disinfectant
Keep in mind that bacteria and viruses may live for 2 to 8 hours when on hard surfaces. To take care of these bacteria, clean all your surfaces at home (including counters, doorknobs, toys, kitchen counters, the bathroom and the phone) using a disinfectant.
6. Keep a Distance from the Child with Flu
Avoid allowing your child to come into contact with anyone who is sick. They should ideally stay at least six feet away from infected people. If someone in your home is sick, try to make sure that the sick person and your child are in separate rooms whenever possible.
When to See a Doctor
If your child meets any of the following criteria, you should contact the doctor right away:
- If your child is less than 3 months of age and has a 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher fever (38 degrees Celsius). This may indicate a serious disease or infection.
- If your child is 3 to 6 months and has a fever over 101 degrees (38.3 degrees Celsius).
- If your child is at least 6 months and has a fever over 103 degrees (39.4 degrees Celsius).
- Has a cough that doesn’t improve in a week.
- Shows signs of an earache.
- Works harder to breathe than normal or wheezes.
- Gets sick soon after recovering from the flu. This may indicate a secondary infection.
- Shows symptoms of dehydration.
If you notice the following symptoms, you should call 911 right away:
- Trouble breathing or fast breathing
- Gray or bluish skin color
- Persistent or severe vomiting