ATLANTA - Children's Healthcare of Atlanta says its emergency departments are more packed than they've ever been, with parents worried their child has the flu.
"So, most cases of influenza are not going to be severe," Dr. Daniel Salinas, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Chief Medical Officer says. "Your child is going to be sicker than having a cold because influenza is a worse disease than the common cold."
The flu tends to hit much faster and harder than a cold.
"With influenza, you usually get a pretty bad headache, and you get high fever, chills, and pretty significant body aches," Salinas says. "So it makes you feel really, really bad."
But Salinas says most healthy kids can skip the ER, and fight the flu at home, while you watch for symptoms.
"The most common thing we see is dehydration," he says. "Because children are reluctant to drink because they feel so bad. And dehydration needs to be treated, if it's severe enough."
To prevent dehydration, Salinas says, parents should focus first on getting their child's fever down, with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Never give aspirin or aspirin-containing products to a child.
"They should take advantage of that window, where their child perks up a bit, and, during that time when the child is perked up, push fluid and food and other things they may need," Salinas recommends.
An antiviral like Tamiflu, if given in the first 48 hours, can shorten the duration of the flu by a day or two, and lessen the symptoms. But antivirals can cause negative side effects, so Dr. Salinas recommends Tamiflu only for children with an underlying health problem like asthma, diabetes, or an immune disorder. If you suspect a family member has the flu, go into a stop-the-spread mode.
"Make sure everyone has had their flu vaccine, of course," Dr. Salinas says. "But make sure the caregivers and the other children are all washing their hands frequently. That they're disinfecting surfaces."