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Health Tips for Parents

2008 Issues

How can I help my child with the flu?


Although its timing varies from year to year, flu season can start in November and last all the way through February. In most cases, remedies to alleviate flu symptoms can help a child feel more comfortable.

UCLA Publications: Health Tips for Parents Nov. 2008 issue: How can I help my child with the flu?Detecting the flu Influenza, or the “flu,” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Only a doctor can distinguish the flu from other viral or bacterial infections through a test on nasal secretions given two to three days after symptoms begin. Since flu symptoms mimic other non-specific viruses, many children go undiagnosed. According to Dennis Woo, , M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, this is not a problem in most children since doctors will recommend that parents treat the symptoms similarly. Very sick children may benefit from an actual diagnosis of the flu, and should be monitored closely.

The flu spreads person-to-person via direct contact, such as through a sneeze or handshake. “During flu season, parents need to be vigilant in reminding children to wash their hands frequently to try to control spreading or catching germs,” says Dr. Woo.

UCLA Health Tips for Parents Publication, Nov.2008 issue: How can I help my child with the flu?Flu vaccines The best way to prevent the flu is with a flu vaccine. When administered, flu vaccines can help reduce new cases of the flu by 80 percent. People who do contract the flu after receiving the flu vaccine are likely to experience milder symptoms. Because influenza viruses change from year to year, influenza vaccines must be updated annually to include viruses researchers predict are most likely to circulate in the upcoming season.

Children over 2 years old can now choose the flu nasal spray instead of an injection, according to new Food and Drug Administration regulations. Both vaccines protect against the same strains of the flu.

Symptoms of the flu may include:

  • Symptoms begin abruptly 
  • Fever that spikes suddenly
  • Severe headache 
  • Muscle aches and chills 
  • Runny nose 
  • Cough and sore throat 
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting

UCLA Health Tips for Parents Publication, - Nov.2008 issue: How can I help my child with the flu? 


Treating the flu

If your child has symptoms of the flu, make sure he or she:

  • Gets plenty of rest 
  • Drinks lots of liquids 
  • Only takes pain-relieving medicines that do not contain aspirin

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles.

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