What to Expect During Flu Season
According the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 'flu season' generally runs fall through winter months with the peak typically being between late November through March. It's marked by increased cases of the influenza (flu) virus as well as other ailments like the common cold. Common flu symptoms include high fever, chills, body aches, cough and congestion. These flu symptoms can come on quickly and it's estimated a person is contagious for four to five days when they're sneezing and coughing. When someone with the flu coughs, the droplets get into the air and can infect other people. Once someone is exposed, they will likely experience symptoms within the first 72 hours. While the average, healthy person recovers from the flu without lasting health affects, the very young and elderly can be especially vulnerable and it's best to find ways to give their bodies an immune system boost.
What Is the Difference Between Cold versus Flu Symptoms
It can be difficult to tell the difference between the cold versus flu symptoms you may be experiencing. As adults, we have more experience with cold and flu symptoms and may be able to articulate the severity of our discomfort better than a baby or small child might. Cold and flu symptoms are similar but vary in severity. Typically, if you or your baby have a cold, you'll experience a low-grade fever, runny nose and light coughing. With the flu, you'll still experience a fever, runny nose and coughing but they will be more intense and may also come with body aches and joint discomfort. In adults, colds with a cough and runny nose will typically last about a week and clear up on their own. In babies and children, colds may last anywhere from 10-14 days and due to their under developed nasal cavities, their nasal discharge may seem heavier or need extra help from nasal aspirators or humidifiers to help clear out the sinuses. If you or your child are experiencing a cough that lasts longer than a week, please contact your doctor, as it is likely an infection that needs intervention.
Cold Symptoms in babies and children:
- A virus that infects the upper respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, throat and ears)
- Typically comes on gradually, starting with a sore throat and congestion.
- Low-grade fever starting about 2-3 days after initial symptoms
- Sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing
- Decrease in appetite
- Lasts about 3-10 days (In babies can be closer to 14 days)
- Babies and small children may not be able to verbally express that they're sick, but you may notice them frequently rubbing their noses
- Difficulty breathing
Flu Symptoms in babies and children:
- A virus that infects the upper respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, throat and ears)
- Symptoms happen suddenly
- High fever and chills
- Sleepless nights and an agitated child
- Muscle and joint aches. Baby or child might appear like they can't get comfortable
- Sore throat, runny nose and dry cough
- The actual infection lasts about 7-14 days with symptoms lingering as long as 3 weeks
- Trouble eating or drinking
What Are Some Ways to Avoid the Flu this Year?
Last year, the CDC reported 101 flu-related deaths amongst children during the 2016-2017 flu season. Before you panic, know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! No one wants to see their baby get sick or to get sick themselves and the best way to keep your baby, child or other family members healthy and avoid the flu this year is to eat healthy, get lots of rest and improve your gut health. The body naturally will attempt to fight off cold and flu invaders, but proper nutrition, lots of water and good sleep will help fight off the flu with force!
Keeping Your Infant or Child Healthy
What food should I give my baby or child to stay healthy? A large part of immunity starts in your gut and eating foods that promote gut health and minimize effects of leaky gut are extremely important to immunity. This means avoiding processed foods and increasing the amount of healthy foods. If you're breastfeeding, it's important that you have a varied and healthy diet, because you're passing along the nutrients to your baby through your breast milk. Great healthy food choices include whole grains (quinoa, rice, whole oats), leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine lettuce), root vegetables (beets, carrots, celery) and lots of clean water! If you're trying to figure out what to feed a picky child or other family member healthy food to keep them well,
How much sleep should my baby or child be getting to stay healthy? What is considered enough sleep for your baby will vary by age and can also fluctuate based on growth spurts, environmental stresses and other outside invaders. Newborns (0-2 months) generally need to sleep the majority of the day, around 20 hours. As your baby gets older, their needs decrease. By 9 months old, a child will be doing about an 11-12 hours stretch at night with 2 naps in between ranging anywhere from 45-90 minutes in length for each one. Their sleep patterns will continue to evolve and by four years of age they'll still be sleeping 10-14 hours per day, but they may skip a nap and sleep an entire stretch of time.
How can I keep my school-aged children from getting my baby sick? If you notice cold or flu symptoms in your toddler, preschooler or other family members, don't panic! There are ways you help keep the germs from spreading in your house. If you're already eating healthy and getting good rest, then to avoid the flu from spreading in your household, you'll also need to make sure to practice good hygiene and keep the sick children separate from those that are healthy. This includes washing your hands multiple times a day and especially after touching potentially infected surfaces or interacting with symptomatic family members.
A few other things to consider while taking care of a sick toddler while trying to keep your infant or baby healthy would be to keep the baby in your room and giving the toddler or other family member reign of the house. Then before tending to the baby, put on a clean shirt and pull your hair back as to minimize any cross contamination between siblings or family members. It's very important to minimize exposure and risks for infants and babies since their immune systems are still developing and the flu in babies can carry extra risks.
Should my baby get the flu shot? This is a common question and as Dr. Loomis mentions in the video above, it is recommended that babies over 6 months of age get the flu shot. If you add a bovine colostrum supplement to your diet, it has been clinically shown to boost immunity against the flu by as much as 3x!
What To Do If You Think Your Baby or Child is Getting the Flu?
If you think you or your child might be showing signs of the flu, remember that good hygiene and keeping them separate from healthy family members goes a long way. We want to remind you to always contact your Pediatrician or Medical Provider with any questions or when making decisions regarding you or your family's health. There are some easy ways to alleviate symptoms associated with cold and flu like fever, runny nose or congestion.
Nasal Relief: Use a nasal suction device (many parents might be horrified when initially using them on their infants) but these devices are great for suctioning out the nasal cavity of excess mucus and drainage. Other ways to help with runny nose and congestion is to use a saline spray or run a warm, steamy bath and let the mucus break up.
Supportive Care - Be sure to read the labels for dosage and age restraints, as well as consult your doctor with any questions, but Ibuprofen or Tylenol can be helpful supportive care for the uncomfortable fever, chill and muscles aches that can occur with the flu. It is not generally recommended that children under the age of 4 receive Benadryl. Please contact your physician or pediatrician for recommendations on Benadryl dosage for children under 4.
When Should I Bring My Baby or Child to See the Doctor?
If you think you or your child might be showing signs of the flu, it's never a bad idea to contact your physician or pediatrician. Many first time moms, bring their babies into the doctor with the first signs of a cold, however, you might not need to rush off to the doctor just yet. Here are some signs to look for in your baby or child if they have severe cold or flu symptoms:
- Fever lasting longer than a day or two.
- Heavy or labored breathing or if your baby's stomach muscles are working really hard and working faster than normal.
- Anything that's concerning to parents.