An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Treatment
Should I get my child vaccinated?
Health officials urge vaccination for all children six months and older, regardless of preexisting conditions and risk for complications from the flu. In previous flu seasons, experts recommended flu vaccines only for those whose medical conditions put them at high risk for complications, including children with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, neurological disorders and those with suppressed immune systems. Pediatricians, however, should continue to make special efforts to vaccinate those at high risk for complications, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Does my child need a single-shot vaccine or two doses?
- Children 9 years and older will get a single-shot vaccine that combines the seasonal and H1N1 strains.
- Children younger than 9 years need a minimum of two doses of 2009 H1N1 vaccine. If they did not receive the H1N1 vaccine during last year’s flu season, they will need two doses of vaccine this year.
- Children younger than 9 years who have never received the seasonal flu vaccine before will need two doses.
- Children younger than 9 years of age who received the seasonal flu vaccine before the 2009-2010 flu season need only one dose this year provided they received an H1N1 shot last year and two doses if they did not receive at least one H1N1 shot last year.
- Children younger than 9 who received the seasonal flu vaccine last year for the first time but only received one shot, should receive two doses this year.
- Children under 9 who received one dose last year and is unclear whether it was H1N1 or the seasonal flu should get two doses this year.
- Doses should be given at least four weeks apart.
- Children under 6 months of age should not be vaccinated.
Detailed AAP flu vaccination guidelines can be found at:
What else can help lower the risk of my child getting flu?
Good hand hygiene is essential. Teach your child to wash their hands frequently and properly. More information on the importance of hand washing and proper technique can be found at:
TREATING CHILDREN WITH FLU
How do I know if it is the flu?
The symptoms of the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu mimic each other. Your child may have a fever (temperature of 100°F or greater), as well as:
- Sore throat
- Body aches and extreme fatigue (tiredness)
- Coughing, sneezing, runny nose
- Vomiting and diarrhea
How should I treat it?
- The flu is caused by a VIRUS and does NOT respond to antibiotics.
- Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) as directed on the bottle for fevers, headache and body aches.
- Have your child drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. This is especially important if your child has high fever, vomiting or diarrhea.
What about Antivirals?
Antiviral medicine may help shorten the length and severity of the infection if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Antivirals are generally recommended for children at high-risk for complications.
Should I be worried?
Don’t be alarmed.
- Most cases of both the H1N1 and the seasonal flu cause mild illness and DO NOT require hospitalization.
- The majority of patients recover in three to five days with no problems.
What can I do to stop the flu from spreading?
- Keep your child away from others to stop the spread of infection.
- At home, keep your child away from other people in the house.
- Don’t take your child on airplanes or buses, and do not send your child to school, daycare, church or other public places until your child is without fever and off medications that treat fever, such as Tylenol or Advil, for at least 24 hours.
- Other members of the household should also stay home if they begin to develop any fever with cough, sore throat, body aches, runny nose or headache.
- Practice Good Hygiene Anyone who is sick and everyone around them should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- DO NOT share eating utensils, drinking glasses, washcloths, towels, beds, pillows, etc. until everyone in the household has been free of symptoms for five days.
- COVER YOUR COUGH AND SNEEZE with the crook of your elbow or use a tissue and throw away the tissue immediately.
- Use a tissue for a runny nose, then dispose of the tissue in a wastebasket immediately.
- After using a tissue, wash your hands with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
When Should I Seek Medical Treatment?
Sometimes it is appropriate to take your child to the doctor. Children most likely to need medical treatment from their doctor for influenza infection are those who are very young or have serious medical conditions (such as asthma, cancer or lung disease, or who are on dialysis).
If you think your child needs medical treatment, CALL your pediatrician’s office first. Your doctor may want to speak with you over the phone and recommend treatments rather than have you come into the office, where your child can infect other people.
If you go to your doctor’s office, have your child wear a mask and tell the staff immediately that he or she has flulike symptoms so you can be placed in an area away from other patients.
Symptoms that require immediate medical attention include:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Child refusing to drink fluids
- Child who is not waking up or is not interacting with people as usual
- A fussy, irritable child refusing to be held
- Worsening fever and cough
- Fever with rash
[updated September 2010]