The flu (influenza) normally circulates during the winter months (November - March). Symptoms include high fever (above 101° F) accompanied by chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, dry cough and runny nose. If your child has any of these symptoms, she may have the flu. A flu fever usually lasts about 5 days, but the cough may go for even longer. If your child does not get a cough and runny nose, but has the fever, chills, and aches, she may have another type of virus.
Call your doctor if your 0-3 month old child develops a fever over 100.4F OR your 3-6 months old child develops a fever over 101F OR your child over 6 months of age develops a fever over 103F. Also call your doctor if your child has trouble breathing, has any eye or ear pain, and/or looks very ill. In addition, if your child develops a lingering cough for a week or more, call your doctor. Trust your instincts as a mother. They will lead you in the right direction.
Influenza is caused by three different types of flu virus, Type A, Type B, and Type C. These viruses spread through the air in droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, as well as by contact with infected surfaces or hands. We all know that babies have their hands in their mouths the majority of the time, and that certainly adds to their risk of getting the flu or another stomach virus.
Your child will be contagious for about 7 days with the flu. Other stomach viruses are generally not quite as long. Antibiotics do not treat the flu and/or other viruses. The only thing you can really do is monitor your baby and be sure that she gets plenty of fluids and rest. Offer her small meals that can be digested easily. She may not have much of an appetite. If your child has pain and/or a fever, ask her doctor if you can administer baby acetaminophren (Tylenol). Monitor your baby's temperature throughout the day and call your doctor if you're concerned at all. Pediatricians are used to frantic calls by new moms, so don't be shy if you are worried.
There are some things you can do to help prevent your baby from getting the flu and/or other stomach viruses. First, get into the habit of washing her hands off with soap and water. Baby wipes are also helpful. You may want to consider purchasing a shopping cart cover so she doesn't touch the very dirty shopping cart at the grocery store or supercenter. Where do those little hands go after they've been all over that shopping cart? You guessed it! In their mouths. Yuck!
For the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage vaccination of healthy children between the ages of 6 and 23 months. This age group is at increased risk of complications and hospitalization due to the flu. The flu shot is also recommended for older children and other family members to help the disease from spreading within the household. Although you hate to add another shot or two to your baby's vaccination schedule, this one could be well worth it.
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