FLU (Influenza)

Dr. Lara Varisco Leonhardt, MD

What is the flu?

The flu is a viral infection of the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi that occurs every winter. Major epidemics every 3 or 4 years (for example, Swine influenza). The main symptoms are a stuffy nose, sore throat, and nagging cough. There may be more muscle pain, headache, fever, and chills than colds usually cause.

For most people, influenza is just a "bad" cold and bed rest is not necessary. Flu is not dangerous to people who are otherwise healthy.

How can I take care of my child?

The treatment of flu depends on a child's main symptoms and is no different from the treatment for other viral respiratory infections.

  • Fever or aches

Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 6 hours or ibuprofen (Advil) every 8 hours for fever over 102°F (39°C). Children and adolescents who may have influenza should never take aspirin because it may cause Reye's syndrome.

  • Cough or hoarseness

For children over age 4 give cough drops. If your child is 1 to 4 years old, give corn syrup (1/2 to 1 teaspoon as needed).


  • Sore throat

Use hard candy for children over 4 years old. Warm chicken broth, tea, or apple juice may also help children over 1 year old.

  • Stuffy nose:  Warm-water or saline nosedrops and suction (or nose blowing) will open most blocked noses. Use nasal washes at least four times a day or whenever your child can't breathe through the nose. Saline nosedrops are made by adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water.
  • Contagiousness

Influenza spreads rapidly because the incubation period is only 24 to 36 hours and the virus is very contagious.
Your child may return to day care or school after the fever is gone and he feels up to it.

Does my child need antiviral medicine?

Most healthcare providers use antiviral medicines because they  reduce the time that your child is sick by a day or so. Usually the runny nose lasts 7 to 14 days and the cough lasts 2 to 3 weeks. All antiviral medicines must be given within 48 hours of the start of influenza symptoms to have an effect. Antiviral medicine is most importantly used to treat children at high-risk for complications from the flu.

Does my child need a flu shot?

Yearly flu shots have always been recommended for high-risk children over 6 months of age. These children often have complications from influenza, such as pneumonia. Parents and siblings of high-risk children should also get a flu shot. Children are considered high-risk if they have the following conditions:
In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics added all children age 6 months to 18 years, healthy and immunocompromised to the list of people who should get a flu shot. Recent research has shown that healthy children younger than 24 months are at as great a risk of complications as children with the high-risk conditions listed above.  The nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist) may be given to healthy children over the age of 2 years old.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

  • Fever greater than 101°F [37.8°C]
  •  Your child is having trouble breathing.
  • Your child starts to act very sick.

Pediatric services are available to all children; office visit fees can be billed to medical insurance or paid in cash.
A sliding schedule of fees for uninsured children is available. Contact us now for more information.
The information contained in this website is to provide information of a general nature about the
practice and pediatric medical conditions. Neither Dr. Leonhardt nor Bee Well Pediatrics, P.A. is engaged in rendering medical
advice or recommendations. You should always consult your doctor for advice.