Has your child caught the flu yet? If they have, you know a little about what to expect: fever, chills, coughing, runny nose. They all combine into creating an illness that can bowl over your child. After my little girl became sick the first time, I vowed to discover a way to decrease the likelihood she would get the flu again. Unfortunately, the flu itself and my daughter’s own nature continued to thwart my efforts.
• Unable to tell if playdates are sick. Influenza is contagious a day before symptoms appear.
• Children sent back to school while contagious. Influenza remains contagious five to seven days after symptoms disappear. This time period can be longer for children.
• She’s learned to share a little too well. Influenza is spread when people touch objects that sick people have touched.
• Grab a buddy. She loves hand holding and hugs. Unfortunately, influenza is spread through direct contact and she does not recognize sickness as a valid reason not to hug people.
These problems are, indeed, problems. However, rather than beat my head against a brick wall trying to prevent an inevitable illness, I thought it was best to arm myself with knowledge. The foremost question in my mind was, “When should I seek medical attention?” Influenza does not mean a mandatory trip to the doctor, but some signs indicate you should pack your kiddies into the car and seek medical attention immediately. This is especially important if your child is younger than four years old.
Sign 1: Never-ending Flu
It’s a flu that never ends. It goes on and on…stop right there. Influenza symptoms should last only for two days, at most. After the initial infection there should be improvement. If the influenza symptoms extend into a fourth or fifth day, your children should see a pediatrician.
Sign 2: No Tears
Influenza is not a party. It’s uncomfortable, miserable, and, at times, a tad painful. The fact that children often cry while sick with influenza should not come as a surprise. I hate to see my baby cry but, in this case, the ability to cry is a good sign. Crying = tears. The ability to produce tears is a sign your child is properly hydrated. As soon as you realize crying is not accompanied by tears, you need to get your child to the hospital.
Sign 3: Difficulty Breathing
Influenza leads to coughing and stuffed noses that can make breathing normally difficult. If your child begins having a difficult time getting air, it can become dangerous. As soon as you notice shallow breathing, rapid breathing, or a blue tint to your child’s skin, you should get your child to the ER.
Sign 4: High Fever
Fevers can be dangerous, especially for children. If your child has a fever, you should watch their temperature carefully. Cold baths or cold wash cloths can temporarily cool the fever. You should seek medical attention immediately if:
• Your child younger than four months has a temperature of 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsuis).
• Your older child’s temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsuis).
• The fever continues into the third day.
Influenza can be deceptively dangerous illness. It’s vital as parents that we diligently monitor our children’s symptoms. If you think your child’s illness has taken a potentially dangerous turn, go with your gut. When in doubt seek medical help.