Influenza (flu) is a viral infection of the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi that occurs in epidemics every 3 or 4 years (e.g., Asian influenza). The main symptoms are a stuffy nose, sore throat, and nagging cough. There may be more muscle pain, headache, fever, and chills than with usual colds. For most people, influenza is just a “bad cold” and bed rest is not necessary. The dangers of influenza for healthy people are overrated.

Home Care for Influenza

The treatment of influenza depends on the child’s main symptoms and is no different from the treatment for other viral respiratory infections. Bed rest is unnecessary.

Fever or Aches. Use Acetaminophen every 4-6 hours or Ibuprofen every 6-8 hours. Aspirin should be avoided in children and adolescents with suspected influenza because of the possible link with Reye’s syndrome. Fever is usually high, > 102 degrees and can last up to 7 days.

Cough or Hoarseness. A deep moist cough is very common and can last up to 3 weeks. Give your child cough drops if over 4 years old. If your child is younger than 4 years old, give corn syrup or honey (if older than 1 year) 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon as needed.

Sore Throat. A sore throat usually occurs at the beginning of the illness. A soft diet will help. For children over age 1, offer sips of warm chicken broth. Children over age 4 can suck on sore throat lozenges.

Stuffy Nose. Warm water or saline nose drops followed by suction (or nose blowing) will open most blocked noses. Use nasal washes at least 4 times per day or whenever your child can’t breathe through the nose. Saline nose drops are made by adding 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water.

Contagiousness. Spread is rapid because the incubation period is only 24-36 hours and the virus is very contagious. Therefore, your child may return to day care or school after the fever is gone and she feels up to it.

Influenza Vaccine And Prevention

Influenza vaccine gives protection for 1 or 2 years and is recommended for ALL children 6 months to 18 years of age. Children with chronic diseases (e.g., asthma) need to have yearly influenza boosters. We give flu shots starting in the early Fall and continue to give the vaccine until the Influenza season finishes or we use all of our available vaccine.

The best prevention is frequent hand washing and coughing into your elbow.


  • ·  Your child is having difficulty with breathing.
  • ·  Your child starts to act very sick. During regular hours if
  • ·  An earache or sinus pain occurs.
  • ·  A fever lasts over 3 days.
  • ·  You have other questions or concerns.