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Your baby and the flu

Babies and the flu; Your infant and the flu; Your toddler and the flu

 

The flu is an easily spread disease. Children under age 2 have a higher risk of developing complications if they get the flu.

The information in this article has been put together to help you protect children under age 2 from the flu. This is not a substitute for medical advice from your health care provider. If you think your baby may have the flu, you should contact a health care provider right away.

Information

 

FLU SYMPTOMS IN INFANTS AND TODDLERS

The flu is an infection of the nose, throat, and (sometimes) lungs. Call your baby’s health care provider if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Acting tired and cranky much of the time and not feeding well
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Has a fever or feels feverish (if no thermometer available)
  • Runny nose

HOW IS THE FLU TREATED IN BABIES?

Children younger than 2 years old will often need to be treated with medicine that fights off the flu virus. This is called antiviral medicine. The medicine works best if started within 48 hours after symptoms begin, if possible.

Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in liquid form will likely be used. Although this drug is not approved for use in children younger than 1 year of age, serious side effects are quite rare. After talking about the risk of side effects against the possible complications of the flu in your baby, you and your health care provider may decide to use this medicine to treat the flu.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever in children. Sometimes, your health care provider will tell you to use both types of medicine.

Always check with your health care provider before giving any cold medicines to your infant or toddler.

SHOULD MY BABY GET THE FLU VACCINE?

All infants 6 months or older should get the flu vaccine, even if they have had a flu-like illness. The flu vaccine is not approved for children under 6 months old.

  • Your child will need a second flu vaccine around 4 weeks after receiving the vaccine for the first time.
  • There are two types of flu vaccine. One is given as a shot, and the other is sprayed into your child's nose.

The flu shot contains killed (inactive) viruses. It is not possible to get the flu from this type of vaccine. The flu shot is approved for people age 6 months and older.

A nasal spray-type flu vaccine uses a live, weakened virus instead of a dead one like the flu shot. It is approved for healthy children over 2 years.

Anyone who lives with or has close contact with a child younger than 6 months old should also have a flu shot.

WILL THE VACCINE HARM MY BABY?

You or your baby can NOT get the flu from either vaccine. Some children may get a low-grade fever for a day or two after the shot. If more severe symptoms develop or they last for more than 2 days, you should call your health care provider.

Some parents are afraid the vaccine could hurt their baby. But children under 2 years of age are more likely to get a severe case of the flu. It is hard to predict how ill your child may get from flu because children often have a mild illness at first. They may become sick very fast.

A small amount of mercury (called thimerosal) is a common preservative in multidose vaccines. Despite concerns, thimerosal-containing vaccines have NOT been shown to cause autism, ADHD, or any other medical problems.

However, all of the routine vaccines are also available without added thimerosal. Ask your health care provider if they offer this type of vaccine.

HOW CAN I PREVENT MY BABY FROM GETTING THE FLU?

Anyone who has flu symptoms should not care for a newborn or infant, including feeding. If a person with symptoms must care for the child, the caretaker should use a face mask and wash their hands well. Everyone who comes in close contact with your baby should do the following:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after using it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze. You may also use alcohol-based hand cleaners.

If your baby is younger than 6 months old and has close contact with someone with the flu, inform your health care provider.

IF I HAVE FLU SYMPTOMS, CAN I BREASTFEED MY BABY?

If a mother is not ill with the flu, breastfeeding is encouraged.

If you are sick, you may need to express your milk for use in bottle feedings given by a healthy person. It is unlikely a newborn can catch flu from drinking your breast milk when you are sick. Breast milk is considered safe if you are taking antivirals.

WHEN SHOULD I CALL THE DOCTOR?

Talk to your child's health care provider or go to the emergency room if:

  • Your child does not act alert or more comfortable when the fever goes down.
  • Fever and flu symptoms come back after they have gone away.
  • The child does not have tears when crying.
  • The child's diapers are not wet, or the child has not urinated for the last 8 hours.

 

 

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for Health Professionals: Influenza (Flu). October 27, 2015. Available at: www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/. Accessed November 11, 2015.

Grohskopf LA, Sokolow LZ, Olsen SJ, Bresee JS, Broder KR, Karron RA.Prevention and Control of Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, United States, 2015-16 Influenza Season. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(30):818-25. PMID: 26247435 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26247435.

Havers FP, Campbell AJP. Influenza viruses. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 258.

 
  • Treating congestion in babies

    Animation

  •  

    Treating congestion in babies - Animation

    How do you treat congestion in babies? I'm Dr. Alan Greene and particularly when over-the-counter decongestants became clear they're not good for babies, parents have been wondering all the more how do you deal with it then? There are a few things. First of all, there's the bulb syringe which you probably went home from the hospital with. And it actually can be effective at helping to pull some of the mucous out - some of the viral load out as well of the nose. They're very easy to use. The trick is you just squeeze everything as much air as you can out of the bulb syringe to start, then gently push it as far as it will go up into the nose and release. Then it will pull both virus and mucous out. You can get more out if you put a few drops of saline nose drops in first. That'll help make it more difficult for the virus to reproduce. It'll help loosen things up so you can pull more out. They can act a bit as a natural decongestant as well. Do the nasal drops, wait maybe 10 minutes, and then do the bulb syringe. Other things that help - gravity can be your friend. All of us tend to be more congested when we're lying flat when our head is about the same level as our heart. And that's even more true for babies. They're more responsive to gravity. So if you're holding the baby upright against your shoulder with their head above their heart, they will naturally and quickly be less congested. Another thing that can be very helpful is a vaporizer. And the way that works a vaporizer humidifier by putting extra moisture in the air will help to thin the mucous so the mucous will draw that extra moisture in and will be thinner and easier to get out either by the bulb syringe, by sneezing, or just the baby's own mechanisms. So there are gentle and natural ways you can help relieve congestion in your young baby.

  • Treating congestion in babies

    Animation

  •  

    Treating congestion in babies - Animation

    How do you treat congestion in babies? I'm Dr. Alan Greene and particularly when over-the-counter decongestants became clear they're not good for babies, parents have been wondering all the more how do you deal with it then? There are a few things. First of all, there's the bulb syringe which you probably went home from the hospital with. And it actually can be effective at helping to pull some of the mucous out - some of the viral load out as well of the nose. They're very easy to use. The trick is you just squeeze everything as much air as you can out of the bulb syringe to start, then gently push it as far as it will go up into the nose and release. Then it will pull both virus and mucous out. You can get more out if you put a few drops of saline nose drops in first. That'll help make it more difficult for the virus to reproduce. It'll help loosen things up so you can pull more out. They can act a bit as a natural decongestant as well. Do the nasal drops, wait maybe 10 minutes, and then do the bulb syringe. Other things that help - gravity can be your friend. All of us tend to be more congested when we're lying flat when our head is about the same level as our heart. And that's even more true for babies. They're more responsive to gravity. So if you're holding the baby upright against your shoulder with their head above their heart, they will naturally and quickly be less congested. Another thing that can be very helpful is a vaporizer. And the way that works a vaporizer humidifier by putting extra moisture in the air will help to thin the mucous so the mucous will draw that extra moisture in and will be thinner and easier to get out either by the bulb syringe, by sneezing, or just the baby's own mechanisms. So there are gentle and natural ways you can help relieve congestion in your young baby.

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Self Care

         

          Tests for Your baby and the flu

           

             

            Review Date: 7/10/2015

            Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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