Does your baby have the flu (influenza)?
There is nothing worse than watching your baby suffer. You do everything in your power to keep your baby happy and healthy. However, sometimes there is nothing we can do to prevent our baby from contracting influenza, or the flu, as it is more commonly known.
You may be questioning whether your baby really has the flu, and not just a cold. The signs and symptoms of each can be very similar.
How can you tell if it is the flu and not a common cold?
It is not easy to tell the difference, especially as your baby cannot tell you how they feel. The main noticeable difference is that your baby will generally be more unwell and have a higher or prolonged fever with the flu.
What is the flu?
In technical terms, the flu is a respiratory virus. It affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It is important to note that it is a VIRUS, not a bacterial infection. This means antibiotics will not be of any use if your baby has the flu.
How does a baby contract the flu?
The flu is highly infectious.
A person with flu is usually contagious from a day or two prior to showing symptoms for up to seven days after. It is spread through infected droplets in the air or on surfaces from a person with the flu coughing or sneezing.
Your baby can easily be infected if they touch something that has the flu virus on it.
What are the symptoms of the flu in a baby?
As mentioned above, it can be hard to tell if your baby is suffering a common cold or the flu. The symptoms of both are similar:
- Runny or stuffy nose
However a baby with the flu will be sicker and look unwell.
A baby who shows some or all of the following symptoms could have influenza:
- High or prolonged fevers
- Lack of appetite
- Restless and/or trouble sleeping
How do you prevent your baby from getting the flu?
The best ways to protect your baby from the flu is through the flu vaccine, avoiding sick people and practicing good hygiene.
It is a great idea to get the flu vaccine when you are pregnant. It provides protection for you and your bub up to about 6 months of age. After 6 months of age your baby can receive the flu vaccine.
You, your partner and any one else who will be in close contact with your baby should get a flu vaccine too. Especially when your baby is under 6 months of age and it is flu season.
Talk to your doctor for more information about the flu vaccine and if it is right for you and your baby.
Avoid sick people
Avoiding people who are unwell, especially when they are coughing and sneezing, will go a long way in protecting your baby from becoming ill themselves.
Good hand hygiene is a great way to avoid spreading germs and keeping your baby healthy.
Ensure you wash your hands, and have any one else who is going to touch your baby was their hands, after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, your baby will pick up the flu virus. The
How do you treat a baby who has the flu?
The treatment for flu is much like when your baby suffers a cold. Rest, fluids and plenty of TLC.
If your baby has not started solids yet then offer extra breast or bottle feeds. If your baby has started solids you can give soup or broth.
Remember that the flu is a virus, so antibiotics will not help. However, sometimes your baby may develop a secondary bacterial infection as a complication of the flu (pneumonia, ear infection or bronchitis). These secondary infections may require antibiotics.
Have you ever had the flu? Remember the aches and pains you got with it. That feeling of being hit by a bus? Your baby likely feels the same that but cant tell you. Have a chat to your doctor or pharmacist as they will be able to suggest some medication like acetaminophen to help.
As stressful as it is for us to watch our babies suffer, there is not much we can do aside from rest, cuddles, fluids, more cuddles, pain relief and even more cuddles. It may feel like a long time in the moment, however your baby should really start feeling better in a few days.
Can the flu lead to complications in your baby?
Most babies will recover over the course of about a week from the flu. However there are a small number of babies who will develop complications.
Complications can include the following:
Your babies airways are quite narrow. This creates the increased risk of respiratory distress when they have the flu. Respiratory distress is where it looks like your baby is having trouble breathing, they are working hard to draw air in, breathing faster then usual, or very shallow, they may also be blue around the finger tips and mouth. If you notice any of these signs you need to seek medical attention immediately. Your baby will require hospitalization.
The flu virus can cause inflammation in the throat and inner ear that can lead to ear infections. In addition if your baby has a runny nose and coughing it can cause fluid build up in the ear, which you guessed it, can lead to an ear infection.
Similar to ear infections, the flu virus can cause inflammation and fluid buildup in the sinuses.
The flu can be a common cause of pneumonia. Pneumonia can cause reduced oxygen supply to the lungs and other tissues in the body.
Febrile convulsions or seizures can happen with fevers of above 102°F (39°C). The convulsions, rapid twitching or jerking movements should only last a minute or two. Whilst it is scary to see, a febrile convulsion does not normally cause any lasting damage.
As awful as it is to even think about, death is a possible complication of the flu. This is why you should watch your baby closely and seek medical attention immediately if you are at all worried.
Related Article: Baby’s First Cold: A complete Guide for Mom