Facts About the Flu!

Influenza is a viral respiratory infection that occurs every year in the fall and winter months.  Muscle pain, headaches, fever, chills, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fevers can all be signs of influenza. These symptoms can be similar to a common cold, however if your child has most of these symptoms without a fever, then it probably is NOT the flu! When you do have influenza, it comes on more suddenly, the symptoms are more severe, and feeling very sick for the first 3 days is common. Typically illness begins about 2 days after exposure. The fever usually lasts 2-3 days, and the cough can last up to 3 weeks. The flu can spread quickly, so getting a flu shot is the best way to protect your family from the flu.

Children are considered high-risk for complications of influenza if they have asthma, congenital heart issues, cancer, neuromuscular diseases, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, pregnancy, severe obesity, have other immune system conditions, or if they are under 2 years of age.


Treatment for influenza will depend on your child’s main symptoms. Here are some common treatments and medications for influenza that may help:

  1. Runny Nose with Lots of Discharge: Blow or Suction the Nose
    • Use saline nose spray such as store brand to loosen up the dried mucus. If you don’t have saline, you can use a few drops of tap water. If under 1 year old, use distilled water or boiled tap water.
    • Step 1. Put 3 drops in each nostril. If under 1 year old, use 1 drop.
    • Step 2. Blow or suction each nostril out while closing off the other nostril. Then, do the other side.
    • Step 3. Repeat nose drops and blowing or suctioning until the discharge is clear.
    • Saline nose drops can also be made at home. Use 1/2  teaspoon (2 ml) of table salt. Stir the salt into 1 cup 8 ounces. Use bottled water or boiled water to make saline nose drops.
    • Other option: use a warm shower to loosen mucus. Breathe in the moist air, then blow each nostril.
    • For young children, can also use a wet cotton swab to remove sticky mucus.
  2. Medicines for Flu:
    • Age Limit. Before 4 years, never use any cough or cold medicines. Reason: Unsafe and not approved by the FDA. Also, do not use products that contain more than one medicine.
    • Cold Medicines. They are not advised. Reason: They can’t remove dried mucus from the nose. Nasal washes are the answer.
    • Decongestants Age Limit: 12 years and older. If saline nose drops don’t open the nose, a decongestant may help. A decongestant nose spray such as Afrin is preferred. Decongestants by mouth such as Sudafed are a second choice. Caution: Overuse can cause side effects.
    • Allergy Medicines and Antibiotics are not helpful for influenza. Antibiotics may be used if your child gets an ear or sinus infection.
  3. Homemade Cough Medicine:
    • Age 3 months to 1 year: Give warm clear fluids like apple juice and lemonade.
    • Amount: Use a dose of 1-3 teaspoons (5-15 ml). Give 4 times per day when coughing. Caution: Do not use honey until 1 year old.
    • Age 1 year and older: Use honey 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2-5 ml) as needed to help thin the secretions and loosen the cough. If you don’t have any honey, you can use corn syrup.
    • Age 6 years and older: Use cough drops to coat the sore throat. If you don’t have any, you can use hard candy.
  4. Sore Throat Pain Relief:
    • Age over 1 year. Can sip warm fluids such as chicken broth or apple juice.
    • Age over 6 years. Can also suck on hard candy or lollipops. Butterscotch seems to help.
    • Age over 8 years. Can also gargle. Use warm water with a little table salt added. A liquid antacid can be added instead of salt. Use Mylanta or the store brand. No prescription is needed.
    • Medicated throat sprays or lozenges are generally not helpful.
  5. Fluids – Offer More:
    • Try to get your child to drink lots of fluids to help keep your child well hydrated.
    • It also will thin out the mucus discharge from the nose and loosen up any phlegm in the lungs.
  6. Fevers/Pain Medicine:
    • For fevers above 102° F, muscle aches, or headaches, acetaminophen or ibuprofen products can be used.
    • Fevers less than  102° F are important for fighting infections.
  7. Prescription Antiviral Drugs for Influenza:
    • Most healthy children with flu do not need an antiviral drug, and The AAP doesn’t recommend them for low-risk children with normal flu symptoms.
    • Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu are sometimes used to treat influenza in patients with severe symptoms or high-risk children. They must be started within 48 hours of when flu symptoms start. After 48 hours of fever, starting the drug is not helpful.

Washing hands often with soap and water and/or using hand sanitizer is a good way to prevent getting sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you do get sick, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands often with soap and water.

If your child’s fever lasts more than 3 days, runny nose lasts more than 14 days, cough lasts more than 3 weeks, or they develop earache or sinus pain, contact The Pediatric Center for an appointment. Yearly influenza vaccines are strongly advised for all children over 6 months of age. Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect your family from the flu! Contact The Pediatric Center in Idaho Falls or Rigby to schedule your influenza vaccine today!



Some content provided by healthychildren.org.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.