How to spot—and treat—the flu in your little one
Observation is important when it comes to the flu. "Flu symptoms are generally more severe than those of the common cold and the flu typically causes a fever of 100.4° F or higher," says Pediatrics Now editor in chief Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D. But symptoms aside, the flu always makes children look and feel sick.
"If your child appears more sick than ever before, call your pediatrician," she says. To treat the flu, O'Keeffe recommends plenty of fluids and rest; and to safely bring down a fever, acetaminophen (Infants' Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Infants' Motrin/Advil). Aspirin should never be given to children.
Ibuprofen lasts longer (six hours) than acetaminophen (four hours) and also does a better job of reducing fevers, says O'Keeffe. An infant's liver may be too immature to metabolize ibuprofen, however, so if your baby is younger than 6 months, use acetaminophen. There's no benefit to alternating the medications, and never combine the two.
"Using both products together can be dangerous to a child's liver," O'Keeffe says. Determining the right dosage of either drug can be difficult, so call your doctor first. And during your next well-baby visit, ask your pediatrician for a weightbased dosing chart so you don't accidentally overmedicate.
Treating colds without medication
While doctors and manufacturers say over-the-counter cold medicines should not be given to children younger than 4, you can still make your baby more comfortable. Littleton, Colo.-based pediatrician Kenneth E. Katz, M.D., offers these tips:
■ Use saline nose drops to loosen mucus, wait 15 seconds, then suction with a bulb syringe, Nosefrida ("the snot sucker") or BabyComfyNose. ■ To help mucus drain, elevate the head of your baby's crib by placing blankets or a wedge under the mattress. ■ Use a cool-mist humidifier with a clean filter in the bedroom at night. ■ Give children 1 year and older one-half teaspoon of buckwheat honey to ease coughing and aid sleep. (Honey can cause botulism in infants.)