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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

How to Treat the Flu

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Over-the-Counter Medicines continued...


 And no matter your child’s age, you should call the doctor right away if your child is very ill, drowsy or fussy, not acting normally, has a fever that lasts more than two days, or has a fever that continues to rise. Also, call the doctor right away if the child has other medical conditions, other symptoms, or has a seizure.

For body aches, doctors generally recommend OTC acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. Children under age 19 should not take aspirin when they have a fever or the flu because it’s been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal illness that affects children and teens. To avoid stomach upset when taking ibuprofen, take it with food.

OTC cough medicines are not recommended for children under age 4, as they've shown no benefit in kids. Homemade cough remedies containing honey have been shown to help. After age 1 year you can use  ½ to 1 teaspoon of honey as needed. It can help thin the bronchial secretions and loosen the cough. Never give ANY honey to children under age 1 year, as it may cause botulism poisoning.

Multi-symptom over-the counter flu medicines, which contain more than one medication, can help relieve several symptoms. However, if you have only one or two symptoms, you may not need a medication that combines an antihistamine, cough suppressant, decongestant, fever reducer, and pain reliever. Try to target your medicine choice to your symptoms. This can also help avoid unpleasant side effects.

Prescription Medicine

There are two prescription antiviral medications which may prevent the flu and ease the severity of flu symptoms. Studies show that these medications can shorten the course of illness if taken within the first 48 hours of having symptoms. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is an oral medication, and zanamivir (Relenza) is inhaled. Your doctor may be more likely to prescribe one of them if your symptoms are severe or if you fall into certain risk groups. This includes children under age 5; adults age 65 or older; people with asthma, diabetes, and some other chronic medical conditions; women who are pregnant or within 2 weeks of delivery; nursing home residents; American Indians/Alaska Natives; people who are extremely obese; and people with weakened immune systems.

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