Story by: Norton Children’s on February 6, 2023
During flu season, pediatrician offices may get very busy with sick kids. Many concerns can be handled with a phone call to your pediatrician or through Norton eCare for children over age 2.
If your child is feeling ill and you can’t quickly be seen by your pediatrician’s office, here are some helpful answers and suggestions based on questions our physicians and nurses are commonly asked.
Helping my child at home
Flu treatment for kids focuses on the fever and discomfort, with rest and over-the-counter medications to ease their symptoms.
Keep in mind that a fever is a normal response by the body to fight off viruses like influenza.
You can try the following techniques to help your child feel more comfortable:
Medicines to give at home
Over-the-counter pain relievers — such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Children’s Motrin, others) — can reduce your child’s fever, headache and body aches or ease the pain of a sore throat.
Do not use aspirin to treat your child’s fever or discomfort. Aspirin has been linked with side effects such as an upset stomach, intestinal bleeding and Reye syndrome.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for children comes in liquid as well as pills that can be chewed. It also comes as a pill that is put in the rectum (suppository) if your child is vomiting and can’t keep down medicine taken by mouth.
Ibuprofen comes in liquid for infants and children and chewable tablets that may be given to older children. With ibuprofen, keep in mind that there are two different kinds of liquid medicines: one for infants and one for children (including toddlers and children up to age 11 years). Infant drops are stronger (more concentrated) than the medicine for children, so you don’t have to give them as much.
When giving acetaminophen and ibuprofen together, make sure you do not give acetaminophen more often than once every four hours, and ibuprofen more often than once every six hours.
Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 6 years old. Children over 6 years old can be given honey or cough drops, but honey should not be given to any child under the age of 12 months.
If you can’t find over-the-counter medications
If you can’t find the medication you are looking for, call your child’s pediatrician’s office to discuss alternative formulations, such as chewable or crushable tablets. If you only have adult medications at home, a child can use adult medication if the dose is appropriate to the child’s age/weight. For example, if a child needs 200 milligrams (mg) of ibuprofen and typically takes 2 teaspoons of liquid ibuprofen that is 100 mg per 5 milliliters (100 mg/5 ml), the child could take a 200 mg ibuprofen tablet.
Also, using a humidifier or even steam from a shower can assist with nasal congestion (do not place child or baby in shower, just create steam in the bathroom). Some advocates recommend using warm therapy such as a lukewarm bath to help with body aches.
Do not use expired medication to treat your child, per the Food and Drug Administration.
It’s time to call your pediatrician or go to an emergency department if:
Content reviewed and approved by Becky S. Carothers, M.D., medical director, Norton Children’s Medical Group, Affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.