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Tips to Help You Give Your Child Medicine

A child's flu doesn't always need medication. For example, Asta says you don't need to treat a light fever if your child is comfortable. For severe aches and pains -- or a fever over 102 F that makes your child uncomfortable -- over-the-counter medication can help. Just make sure to use these drugs carefully.

  • Choose the right drug. Pediatricians recommend child formulas of acetaminophen or ibuprofen for children's fevers and aches. You can use acetaminophen in children 2 years and older. For kids under 2, ask a doctor for the correct dose before using. Ibuprofen can be used in children 6 months or older. Never use aspirin in a child; it increases the risk of a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.
  • Don't mix medications. Alternating between acetaminophen and ibuprofen raises the risk of accidentally giving your child too much medicine. Unless advised by your pediatrician, stick with one drug, and follow the directions carefully.
  • Give the right dose. Only buy medications that are specially formulated for kids in your child's age group. Measure the dose carefully in a well-lit room and use the dosing device included with the medicine. Don’t use a kitchen spoon or other measuring device. Never give your child an adult medication.
  • Make a note on a piece of paper each time you give a dose. That way you, your spouse, and the babysitter can keep track of when your child last got medicine -- and won't accidentally give too much or an extra dose.
  • Avoid cold and flu remedies in young kids. They shouldn't be used in kids under age 4. In older kids, it’s unclear how well they work. If you decide to use cold medicine, read the label and pick the medicine that most closely matches the child’s symptoms.
  • Don't beg your doctor for antibiotics. The flu is a virus. Antibiotics only work with bacterial infections. They won’t help fight the flu.

Tips to Help Comfort Your Sick Child

Ever notice how children like to put bandages on the tiniest scrape or cut? That's because bandages make children feel better, even if they don't need one. It's the placebo effect at work.

Use the same principle when your children feel crummy with the flu. You could:

  • Set aside a special cup to use only when your children are sick.
  • Make sure that any specially loved stuffed animals or blankets are with them on the couch.
  • Bring down a toy doctor's kit so your children can give their dolls or stuffed animals a check-up.
  • Have a stash of special foods -- like Popsicles -- for times when your kids are sick.
  • Reserve a few special toys or puzzles in the closet for sick days.

"Families develop traditions for what helps when a child is sick with a cold or flu," Asta says. Those are the things that a child will start to associate with feeling cared for -- and getting better. Think about what helped you when you were little? How did your mother comfort you?

"When kids are sick, parents really want to do something to help," says Asta. You can't cure the illness, but you can do a lot to make it more bearable. A special cup or a hug won't bring down a child's fever or body ache. But little kindnesses can help your child feel better in other ways.