If you catch your child sneezing and coughing, he or she may have gotten the dreaded flu bug. It’s a hard one to avoid, since it is a contagious viral infection and you won’t be able to constantly be with your minis on a daily basis. Dr Chan Poh Chong, head and senior consultant, Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, National University Hospital shares how the flu is caught and how to best help your little one to recover from it.
What causes the flu?
The flu is a specific infection caused by a virus called influenza. It is spread through direct contact like someone sneezing or coughing into another person’s face via air droplets left in the air after an infected person sneezes or coughs. It can also be transmitted when the hand grazes an infected surface that the influenza virus has settled upon such as doorknobs, table or toys, and bring the hand to their mouth, eyes or nose.
Do note that the term flu is sometimes used loosely by people for symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, cough and sore throat due to other virus infections.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are quite similar to most common cold symptoms – runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. With the flu, muscle aches, joint pains, headaches and lethargy become more prominent, and children may experience vomiting and diarrhoea.
How is it treated?
There are anti-viral medications that may shorten the duration and symptoms of the flu, but majority of children will recover on their own with sufficient rest and fluid intake. Antibiotics are not necessary, unless there are complications like bacterial pneumonia or sinusitis.
What are some preventive measures parents can take?
Avoid crowded places and practise good hygiene like hand-washing and not rubbing the eyes or noses, with your child. These are good ways to prevent catching the flu. Ensure that you child has a balanced nutritious diet and good sleep to strengthen their immune system. You can also choose to let your child take an annual influenza shot, if you prefer to err on the side of caution.
Dr Chan Poh Chong is head and senior consultant, Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, National University Hospital. He has special interest in dermatology, feeding and nutrition as well as vaccinology.
To learn more about other common childhood conditions, click here.