Tips for Treating the Flu

Unlike some other infections, when the flu is uncomplicated, it doesn't usually require medical treatment.

Occasionally, doctors prescribe an antiviral medicine if symptoms are reported within 48 hours of onset. But these usually are used only when a child is at risk for serious complications, and they typically shorten the course of the infection by just 1 or 2 days.

To help your child feel better in the meantime:

  • Offer plenty of fluids (fever, which can be associated 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) to maintain hydration.
  • 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).
  • 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, ask your doctor whether you (and other family members) should get a flu shot. Also, wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially after picking up used tissues.

If your doctor recommends a prescription medicine to ease symptoms, be sure to call before you go to the pharmacy. Because the flu can strongly affect many areas of the United States, some pharmacies might have difficulty keeping certain medicines in stock.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2013