Your Baby and the Flu: FAQ

When the flu season hits, it's time to get smart about keeping your baby healthy. The flu is a much bigger deal than a cold. Learn how to prevent the virus from reaching your little one, and find out what to do if he gets sick.

How does it spread?

When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks, the virus moves through the air. Your baby can get infected if he breathes it in.

He may also get sick if he touches something that has the virus on it -- like a bottle, pacifier, or toy -- and then touches his eyes, mouth, or nose.

What's the best way to keep my baby from getting the flu?

It depends on his age. If he's over 6 months, he's old enough to get a flu shot. If your baby is allergic to eggs, talk to your pediatrician to see if it's OK for him to get the regular flu vaccine or if he needs one that's made without that ingredient.

But what if your baby is younger than that? The CDC says your best bet is to make sure everyone who comes into regular close contact with him gets a flu shot. That includes members of your family and baby sitters. It will reduce the risk that the virus will spread to your baby.

How do I know if my baby has a cold or the flu?

Sometimes it's easy to mix them up. But in general, flu symptoms are more severe than just a runny nose and sore throat.

Another major difference: a cold comes on gradually, while the flu tends to hit suddenly.

Some symptoms you may notice in your baby:

Call your pediatrician as soon as you notice any of those problems. You don't want to take any chances. When your baby has the flu, he could be at risk for complications, such as sinus and ear infections and pneumonia -- especially if he's under 6 months old. Quick treatment can help prevent trouble.

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What's the treatment?

If your baby is at least 2 weeks old, your pediatrician may prescribe the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to prevent or treat the flu. It works best when he takes it in the first day or two after he gets sick.

How long can I expect my baby to be sick?

Fever and other symptoms usually go away after 5 days, but it often takes a week or two to fully recover.

What can I do to keep my baby comfortable while he's on the mend?

Make sure he gets lots of rest and drinks plenty of fluids. He may have no appetite, but this isn't the time to miss out on nutrients. So try to feed him small meals throughout the day.

Check with your pediatrician before you give him anything to lower his temperature. Your doctor may recommend infant acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Don't use aspirin because it can cause a rare but life-threatening liver disorder called Reye's syndrome.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 04, 2018

Sources

SOURCES: 

CDC: "Flu Complications" and "Flu Symptoms." 

American Academy of Pediatrics: "The Flu." 

March of Dimes: "Influenza (Flu) and Your Baby." 

KidsHealth: "Influenza."

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