The Flu: What Does It Look Like and What To Do

Feb 16 • 2018

As early as fall last year, flu cases began to flood into emergency rooms. Dr. Miguel Rodriguez, a pediatrician with the Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital, says the hospital began seeing flu cases as early as October of last year. And he believes the pediatric ER hit its peak in December—seeing about 280 patients in a single week. While visits to the Baptist Children’s Hospital for flu are beginning to taper off now, Dr. Rodriguez cautions that it’s still vital to watch for flu symptoms and know what to do next.

Dr. Rodriguez offers the following tips, including how to recognize the flu, for parents.

How to know if your child has the flu:

Cold symptoms share similar symptoms with the flu, but the flu is much more severe. A cold is likely to involve a runny or stuffy nose, and maybe a cough and sore throat.

But with the flu, your child may have some or all of these symptoms present:

  • Fever, although not everyone will have a fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

How to treat the flu at home:

Drink lots of fluids, rest, use a warm compress and sip on warm tea or soup. A humidifier can help soothe sore throats and sinus passages. Dr. Rodriguez also recommends parents keep their kids at home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. To limit spreading germs, parents and kids should wash their hands often.

When should you take your child to the ER:

Parents should go to the ER if their child has the following severe symptoms:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Being so irritable that they can’t be comforted or soothed
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, Dr. Rodriguez recommends parents get medical help right away for any infant (1 month or less) who has any of these signs:

  • Unable to eat
  • Trouble breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
  • Fever greater than or equal to 100.4

Medications that treat the flu are called antivirals. These medicines may only briefly shorten the course of the illness if given early. However, potential side effects may occur. So consult with your pediatrician on whether the medication is appropriate for your child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you keep your child home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to seek medical care. Being fever-free means having no fever even without the use of fever reducers like Tylenol.

Dr. Rodriguez says, “It is not too late to get the flu shot. Our community pediatrician offices are still offering the flu shot for their patients.”

Learn more about the flu shot and other ways to help prevent illness. And for more information about Baptist Children’s Hospital, visit Baptist Online.