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First Aid: The Flu

First Aid

The flu (influenza) is a viral infection that usually starts out like a cold, but can cause a more serious illness. Most kids who get the flu get over the infection without any problems. Flu season starts in the late fall and goes through early spring.

Signs and Symptoms

What to Do

If Your Child Has Flu Symptoms:

  • Call your doctor.
  • Let your child rest as much as needed.
  • Keep your child hydrated with plenty of liquids — breast milk or formula for babies; water, juice, ice pops, and cool drinks for older kids (but no caffeinated drinks).
  • Relieve symptoms with:
    • a cool-mist humidifier
    • saline (saltwater) nose drops
    • acetaminophen or ibuprofen (give according to package directions)

Never give aspirin to a child with the flu. Don't give cough or cold medicine to children under 6 years old (call the doctor first for older kids).

Get Medical Care if Your Child Has:

  • symptoms that get worse
  • a severe cough
  • trouble breathing
  • a fever and is 3 months of age or younger
  • a stiff neck
  • a headache that doesn't go away after acetaminophen or ibuprofen

Think Prevention!

  • Make sure your kids get the flu vaccine each year.
  • Try to avoid large crowds during flu season.
  • Wash hands well and often.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: June 2018