When your young child has swine flu

The flu is an infection of the nose, throat, and (sometimes) lungs. Your young child will have a fever of 100 °F or higher and a sore throat or a cough. Other symptoms you may notice:

  • Chills, sore muscles, and headache
  • Runny nose
  • Acting tired and cranky much of the time
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

When your child's fever goes down, many of these symptoms should get better.

Eating and Drinking

Your child should drink plenty of fluids.

  • Do not give your child too much fruit or apple juice. Dilute these drinks by making them one half water and one half juice.
  • Popsicles or gelatin (Jello) are good choices, especially if the child is vomiting.

Your child can eat foods while having a fever, but do not force the child to eat.

Children with the flu usually tolerate bland foods better. A bland diet is made up of foods that are soft, not very spicy, and low in fiber. You may try:

  • Breads, crackers, and pasta made with refined white flour
  • Refined hot cereals, such as oatmeal and cream of wheat

Treating Your Child's Fever

Do NOT bundle up a child with blankets or extra clothes, even if your child has the chills. This may keep their fever from coming down, or make it higher.

  • Try one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket for sleep.
  • The room should be comfortable, not too hot or too cool. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever in children. Sometimes doctors advise you to use both types of medicine.

  • In children under 3 months of age, call your doctor first before giving medicines.
  • Know how much your child weighs, then always check the instructions on the package.
  • Take acetaminophen every 4 - 6 hours.
  • Take ibuprofen every 6 - 8 hours. Do NOT use ibuprofen in children younger than 6 months old.
  • Do NOT give aspirin to children unless your child's doctor tells you to use it.

A fever does not need to come all the way down to normal. Most children will feel better when the temperature drops by even one degree.

A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool a fever.

  • It works better if the child also receives medicine -- otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.
  • Do NOT use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs. These often make the situation worse by causing shivering.

Flu Shots

There are 2 types of flu vaccine that will be available. One is given as a shot, the other is sprayed into your child's nose (if they are 2 or older).

Even if your child has had a flu-like illness, they should still get the flu vaccine.

If enough flu vaccine is available, all children 6 months or older should receive the vaccine.

Some children are at more risk for a severe case of the flu. It is more important that these children receive the vaccine:

  • Children 6 months through 4 years of age
  • Children ages 5 -18 who have long-term medical problems
  • Children who are taking aspirin every day

Children may need a second flu vaccine around 4 weeks after receiving the first vaccine.

When to Call the Doctor

Talk to your child's doctor or go to the emergency room when:

  • Your child does not act alert or more comfortable when their fever goes down
  • Fever and flu symptoms come back after they had gone away
  • There are no tears when they're crying
  • Their diapers are not wet, or they have not urinated for the last 8 hours

Call 911 if your child has a fever and:

  • Is crying and cannot be calmed down (children)
  • Cannot be awakened easily or at all
  • Seems confused
  • Cannot walk
  • Has difficulty breathing, even after their nose is cleared
  • Has blue lips, tongue, or nails
  • Has a very bad headache
  • Has a stiff neck
  • Refuses to move an arm or leg (children)
  • Has a seizure
  • Has a new rash or bruises appear

Alternate Names

Flu - young child; Influenza - young child