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What's the best way to treat flu symptoms in children? continued...

The FDA and manufacturers now say that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under age 4, and the American Academy of Pediatricians warns that they can cause adverse effects in children under age 6. Talk with your doctor before giving your child an over-the-counter cold or flu medicine.

In very young children with congestion, use a nasal bulb to remove mucus. You may also spray three drops of saline nasal spray into each nostril. Some children may be at increased risk for serious complications from flu. Talk to your health care provider early if your child is younger than age 5 or has a chronic health condition such as asthma or other lung disease, heart condition, or diabetes.

For in-depth information about how to treat flu symptoms in children, see WebMD's Flu Treatment.

Should I take a child with flu symptoms to the hospital?

If your child has one of the following signs, go to the hospital ER or call 911 for emergency care:

  • The child has difficulty breathing and does not improve even after nasal suctioning and cleaning.
  • The skin color appears bluish or gray.
  • The child appears sicker than in any previous episode of illness. The child may not be responding normally. For example, the child does not cry when expected or make good eye contact with the mother, or the child is listless or lethargic.
  • The child is not drinking fluids well or is showing signs of dehydration. Common signs of dehydration include absence of tears with crying, decrease in amount of urine (dry diapers), irritability or decreased energy.
  • A seizure occurs.

Are antiviral drugs used to treat flu in children?

If your child is at high risk of serious complications from the flu, your health care provider may prescribe an antiviral drug.

In some cases, antiviral drugs can also be used to prevent infection from flu. These drugs block the replication of the flu virus, preventing its spread. In healthy children, antivirals such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) may shorten the duration of flu and reduce the severity of flu symptoms.

For in-depth information about using antiviral drugs to treat flu in children, see WebMD's Flu Treatment: Antiviral Medications for Children.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on November 19, 2013
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