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The flu can make someone feel pretty miserable for up to a week, but it usually won't need medical treatment unless a person develops complications.

Some people are at high risk for serious complications if they get the flu, including children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, people with asthma, and those with weakened immune systems. If they get the flu and their symptoms are reported within the first 2 days of the illness, a doctor might prescribe an antiviral medicine. But these medicines usually only shorten the course of the infection by 1 or 2 days.

If your child gets the flu:

  • Offer plenty of fluids (fever, which is common with the flu, can lead to dehydration). If your child is tired of drinking plain water, try ice pops, icy drinks mixed in a blender, and soft fruits (like melons or grapes).
  • Encourage your child to rest in bed or on the couch with a supply of magazines, books, quiet music, and perhaps a favorite movie.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and pains (but do not give aspirin unless your doctor directs you to do so).
  • Dress your child in layers so you can add and remove layers during bouts of chills or fever.
  • Ask a close relative or faraway friend to call and help lift your child's spirits.
  • Take care of yourself and the other people in your family! If you haven't done so, ask your doctor whether you (and other family members) should get a flu vaccine. Also, wash your hands well and often, especially after picking up used tissues.

If your doctor prescribes medicine to ease symptoms, be sure to call the pharmacist before you go to pick it up. The flu can strongly affect many areas of the United States, so some pharmacies might have trouble keeping the medicines in stock.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014

 
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Related Resources:
American Academy of Family Physicians
This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
CDC: Flu (Influenza)
The CDC's site has up-to-date information on flu outbreaks, immunizations, symptoms, prevention, and more.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.