Flu Symptoms and Medication Management

Most flu infections don’t require a visit to the pediatrician, which is good news. Oftentimes, you can safely and effectively treat your child’s flu symptoms at home. But it’s important to know that not all medications should be given to treat the flu. Understanding which safe medicines to give your child and the appropriate dosage can prevent accidental overdose and other issues.

How Do I Know if it’s the Flu?

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. It can be mild or severe, and in some extreme cases it can lead to death. The flu can be especially dangerous for people who have a chronic illness or a weakened immune system.

Common flu symptoms can include:

  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

Should I take my child to the doctor for flu symptoms?

If you think your child has flu symptoms and are wondering whether you should seek medical care, contact your child’s pediatrician. Many pediatricians also offer after-hours care during flu season.

Preventing and Treating the Flu

How can I prevent the flu?

The flu is common but often unpredictable. The best way to keep your family healthy is to stay up to date on your annual flu vaccinations.

Contact your child's pediatrician or find a facility near you that offers the flu vaccine using the Healthmap Vaccine Finder.

You can also help keep your family well by:

  • Staying away from others with fever, cough or runny nose.
  • Encouraging frequent hand-washing.
  • Keeping noses and mouths covered when coughing or sneezing.
  • Making sure your family members are up to date on their vaccinations.
  • Keeping hard surfaces clean to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • Giving your child’s immune system a boost with plenty of sleep, exercise and a nutrient-rich diet full of flu-fighting fruits, vegetables and protein.

Remember, it’s never too late to get a flu shot. 

How can I treat the flu?

If you suspect your child has the flu, provide them with plenty of fluids and lots of rest at home. To treat the flu at home, you can:

  • Reduce fever and ease body aches with children's ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Advil or Tylenol). Aspirin and aspirin-containing products (such as Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, and Alka-Seltzer, among others) shouldn’t be given to children or adolescents who have flu-like symptoms, unless instructed by a physician to be given for other medical reasons.
    • Practice medication safety. To treat flu symptoms such as fever and body aches, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used. Do not use aspirin, aspirin-containing products, or cough and cold medicines. Be mindful of using more than one over-the-counter medicine that contains acetaminophen, as too much can be fatal.
  • Offer plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration. Soft fruits, blended frozen juice drinks and ice pops can help keep your child hydrated.
  • Encourage bed rest.

Urgent Care Center and Emergency Department Wait Times

Does my child need urgent or emergency care?

There’s common confusion around where and if your child needs medical care for flu symptoms. Symptoms that require care from a pediatrician include:

  • Fever that does not respond to fluids, rest and fever-reducing medications
  • Fatigue or inconsolable irritability
  • Confusion or a headache that does not go away
  • Chest pain, labored breathing or persistent cough
  • Neck stiffness
  • Stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea or inability to drink enough fluids to stay hydrated
  • Back pain or weak legs or feet
  • Severe muscle pain and/or red urine

When your child has flu-like symptoms that are concerning to you and his pediatrician isn’t available, the next best choice is to go to a pediatric urgent care center or emergency department. There are several symptoms that can be treated at a pediatric urgent care center and don’t require a trip to the emergency room.

If you decide to go to a Children’s Urgent Care Center, check out our wait times.

In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away.

Can I save a spot in line?

We know the last place you want to be with a sick child is in a waiting room. To help you and your family spend less time waiting we have online scheduling at all our pediatric Urgent Care Center locations. This allows you to select a time that you would like to come to the Urgent Care Center. Once at the center, you will begin the check-in process. A reserved slot is not a set appointment, and you may have to wait after you come into the center. Patients who arrive with a more serious condition or illness may be seen before you.

To reserve your spot, follow these steps:

  • Check wait times for our Urgent Care Centers.
  • Select "Save My Spot" for the Urgent Care Center of your choice.
  • Choose an available arrival time and give your information. You will receive an email and text message confirmation.
  • Make sure to arrive on time in order to hold your place in line.

We accept walk-in patients during business hours at all our Urgent Care Centers. The best time to bring your child to one of our Urgent Care Centers is during the middle of the day. We are generally busiest in the morning, late afternoon and evening.

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.