The flu can make someone feel pretty miserable for up to a week, but it usually won't need medical treatment unless a person develops complications.
Some people are at high risk for serious complications if they get the flu, including children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, people with asthma, and those with weakened immune systems. If they get the flu and their symptoms are reported within the first 2 days of the illness, a doctor might prescribe an antiviral medicine. But these medicines usually only shorten the course of the infection by 1 or 2 days.
If your child gets the flu:
- Offer plenty of fluids (fever, which is common with the flu, can lead to dehydration). If your child is tired of drinking plain water, try ice pops, icy drinks mixed in a blender, and soft fruits (like melons or grapes).
- Encourage your child to rest in bed or on the couch with a supply of magazines, books, quiet music, and perhaps a favorite movie.
- Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and pains (but do not give aspirin unless your doctor directs you to do so, as it has been linked to a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome).
- Dress your child in layers so you can add and remove layers during bouts of chills or fever.
- Ask a close relative or faraway friend to call and help lift your child's spirits.
- Take care of yourself and the other people in your family! If you haven't done so, speak to your doctor about getting a flu vaccine (for you and other family members) since it is recommended yearly for everyone older than 6 months of age. Also, wash your hands well and often, especially after picking up used tissues.
If your doctor prescribes medicine to ease symptoms, be sure to call the pharmacist before you go to pick it up. The flu can strongly affect many areas of the United States, so some pharmacies might have trouble keeping the medicines in stock.