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No one relishes the aches, fever and fatigue brought on by the flu virus. In children, however, flu symptoms can quickly spiral into something more serious.
Andrew Peters, MD, chief of Pediatrics at Northwest Community Hospital, urges parents to "start with the basics" this flu season. "Make sure your child is eating well, getting enough rest and washing her hands often. And don't be afraid to encourage your kids to play outside, weather permitting. It's great for getting natural vitamin D and keeping the lungs strong and healthy."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for all children 6 months to 18 years old.
If your child does get the flu, Dr. Peters encourages parents to make sure their child uses the "universal salute"—the practice of sneezing and coughing into the elbow rather than the hands.
Common symptoms include fever, chills, cough, runny nose, sore throat, aches and fatigue. Dr. Peters urges parents to seek treatment if children are:
These symptoms can signal pneumonia, bronchitis, dehydration or an ear/sinus infection. The flu can also worsen symptoms from chronic conditions, such as asthma.
Dr. Peters notes that infants younger than 3 months with any fever or sluggishness should be seen on the first day of symptoms.
Dr. Peters encourages parents to establish a rapport with a pediatrician now so that if the flu strikes, your child has a care team in place for early antiviral treatment and for additional treatment if symptoms take a serious turn. "That's what we're here for—to be your support and your guide with your child's health," he says.
Parents can also be comforted to know that NCH partners with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, which staffs NCH's Pediatric Emergency Room with specialists in pediatric emergency medicine from 9 am to midnight, seven days a week.
"Treating a child is different than treating an adult," says Dr. Peters. "If your child has a medical emergency, you want the best team possible on hand to take care of them. Our specially trained staff, along with physicians from Lurie Children's, provides the expertise that's crucial for treating children."