Flu is one of the common viral infections that infect the respiratory system of your baby, more particularly the lungs and nose. Your baby would show symptoms of mild fever, cough, runny nose, looking tired and not feeding well. It is difficult to differentiate common cold and flu in young children, particularly in infants. Your doctor (pediatrician) would help in detecting flu based on symptoms. Flu in babies can be treated with suitable antiviral drugs.
Flu in babies is caused by influenza virus. It spreads through droplets of air easily when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. The immunity of the babies is very low and hence they are vulnerable in developing much illness including flu. Getting vaccinated your infant is the only way to prevent flu. Breastfeeding the baby can help in boosting his/her immunity.
Symptoms Of Flu :
Flu and common cold have similar symptoms of cold and fever. Often parents are concerned whether their child has developed flu since attacks of flu is quite common in infants and young children. Flu virus would have entered the infant’s body through air. It would remain in his body for few days before the onset of first symptoms. Flu in babies would infect his nose, throat and nasal passage and in severe cases the lungs.
- Coughing is the first sign of flu. Your baby would cough few times in a day but would continue to feed well and remain active.
- Next day he would act tired and start with runny nose. You can see mucus running from his soft nose.
- He would not feed well most of the time he would be cranky. He would start coughing frequently now.
- He may develop mild fever at the end of the day.
- For some babies flu can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
- The infant will have trouble sleeping and he might be fussy due to tiredness.
The above symptoms of flu would come quickly and affect the baby fast. If your baby has nasal congestion or cough before he gets fever then it is likely common cold.
When To See Your Doctor :
If your baby is under 3 months old you need to see your GP right away as he starts developing symptoms of cold/flu. If your baby is above 4 months then you can wait for a day or two to check if his symptoms are improving. If your infant has rash or has temperature above 39 degrees or if he has breathing problems, you need to consult your doctor immediately.
Your pediatrician can differentiate cold and flu by observing the infant’s symptoms.
There is no magic cure for flu or cold. It takes few days for the baby to recover completely. But you should not delay in getting help from your doctor. Often symptoms of common cold would settle within few days or maximum a week. If the infant continue to have symptoms of cough, runny nose, mild fever and poor feeding your doctor would prescribe antiviral medications.
Understanding Colds :
It is quite normal for each infant to develop cold n ba ba ow and then, even though you give extra care for your baby. Most of the infants would get his cold before three months. Baby would have slowly adapted to routine feeding and sleeping schedule, when he gets cold for the first time. No baby can avoid it though mothers are breastfeeding them. Environment is so bad that the baby cannot escape from attacks of virus and bacteria causing respiratory tract infections. But you need not worry if your baby develops a cold. By getting cold, he/she builds his immunity network strongly.
Flu Season :
Flu is at its peak during the winter months (November to March). Flu infection would be there for more than a week. You need to be very careful in following the instructions of your doctor in giving medications. Flu is contagious and the virus stays in his body for few weeks. Older children and adults would have symptoms like high fever, hacking cough, sore throat, aching muscles and general tiredness if they develop flu.
Difference Between Cold and Flu :
There are no hard core rules to detect cold and flu since the symptoms are the same for both. But remember one thing. Generally developing cold is a process it takes few days. But flu hits your baby fast and he becomes sick within few hours of the day. Flu starts with fever followed by cough, runny nose and tiredness. But cold would show symptoms of cough, sore throat, runny nose on the first day followed by mild fever on the next day. Your baby will not get better if he develops flu and the symptoms will get worse and his activity level would decline rapidly. But with cold he would stay active even with coughs and other signs. To conclude, flu is rapid and fast whereas cold is rather slow developing.
Babies should be given a shot for flu as per the immunization schedule (within 6 months). A booster vaccine would be given next time probably a month after the first dose. The child should be given additional shots once a year until he/she completes 5th birthday. According to the recommendations of CDC, each year the child should be vaccinated against influenza virus. Traditional vaccine gives total protection against H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B virus. You should be very careful once you hear about spread of flu in your area, more during winter months.
Once you see runny nose of your baby, you can put a vaporizer or use additional humidifier in his room. This can prevent the mucus from drying out considerably. Don’t forget to give him plenty of fluids during flu since it may cause dehydration. Breastfeeding is the best remedy for triggering his immunity if he is below 3 months. You can consider giving soups if he is above 4 months of age. During the periods of outbreak season, keep your child away from sick friends. You should cover your mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing and more so if you are in the infant’s room. Wash your hands frequently using alcohol based cleaners.