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Tips for Treating the Flu

What Is the Flu?

The flu (influenza) is a very contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. It affects all age groups, though kids tend to get it more often than adults.

The flu can make someone feel pretty sick for up to a week. But it usually won't need medical treatment unless someone develops complications.

People at high risk for serious complications from the flu include 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.

How Can I Help My Child?

If your child gets the flu:

  • Offer plenty of fluids. Fever, which is common with the flu, can lead to dehydration. Offer plain water, 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. (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.
  • Take care of yourself and the other people in your family! If you haven't already, speak to your doctor about getting a flu vaccine for you and other family members. 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, call the pharmacist before you go to pick it up. When flu season is severe, some pharmacies might have trouble keeping the medicines in stock.

Date reviewed: June 2016