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CHOA releases guidelines to help let you know if your child has the flu

And if they do have the symptoms, here's what you should do.

ATLANTA - The Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has released a chart that could help give you answers before you decide to rush to the hospital if your kids are sick or may have the flu.

Almost like a quiz you would see in a magazine, the guidelines could give parents some much needed needed answers that are easy to understand.

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Here is how the guideline is broken down:

If you think your child has the flu you can move to the next step which asks if your child is suffering from any of the descriptions provided in an information box:

  • Age less than 12 weeks and fever over 100.3
  • Age 3-6 months and fever over 102.2
  • Dehydrated (no tears, making very little urine, drinking very little)
  • Breathing difficulties such as:
    • Grunting
    • Wheezing
    • Flaring and widened nostrils with each breath
    • Pulling or retracting (the skin between the ribs or the neck sinks in more than usual with each breath)

The guidelines suggests if your child is suffering from any of the above symptoms, go to an emergency room immediately or an urgent care center.

If they are NOT showing signs of those symptoms, you can move on to the next box of descriptions:

  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain that is constant or worse with movement
  • Sore throat so bad that he/she cannot open mouth widely
  • Sore neck preventing him from moving it normally in all directions
  • Return of fever following 12-24 hrs when he/she seemed to be improving
  • Vomiting and unable to keep fluids down

If your child is suffering from these symptoms, you're told to give your doctor or nurse a call. If you leave a message for your doctor and they do not get back to you, take your child to an urgent care center.

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And if these symptoms do not apply to your child, you can go on to the next step which asks an albeit odd but very important question: Every four hours or so, will your child play, smile, concentrate on an activity?

This question is important because most children with the flu will be tired or in a bad mood most of the time however, when the first fever goes down with the use of medicine, the child can start to perk up. This can be a misleading sign of improvement and may only last for moments before regular flu symptoms return.

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If your child is showing these signs, you are asked to speak to your child's doctor within the next hour to two hours. If you leave a message and do not hear from your doctor, you should take your child to an urgent care center but not before trying to lower their fever first.

The next description box says you should contact your child's doctor's office if they are experiencing these symptoms:

  • Has an ongoing health problem such as:
    • Less than 24 months of age
    • Immune deficiency (diagnosed by a doctor as having a problem fighting infections or taking daily steroids or aspirin)
    • Lung disease such as moderate or severe asthma (takes medicine for asthma one or more days each week)
    • Heart disease requiring medication
    • Any health problem requiring daily medication or regular visits to a specialist (example: Diabetes)
  • Pregnant (This obviously applies to the parent)

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If you or your child is suffering from these symptoms, you could be at risk for complications from the flu or respiratory viruses. You are advised to call your doctor or follow another set of guidelines provided by CHOA on 'How to treat the flu'.

Here's how they say you can treat the flu:

  • Control the fever for your child's comfort with:
    • Either acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed
    • NEVER give aspirin or any produce containing aspirin such as Pepto-Bismol to a child with flu-like symptoms
    • The goal is to bring the fever down to normal but to reduce the fever enough so that your child is comfortable
  • Offer as much clear liquid (juices, water, popsicles, Pedialyte) as your child will take. When there is diarrhea, Pedialyte or Gatorate G2 Low Calorie are particularly good
  • Do NOT allow your child to be around others. Keep your child at home until 24 hours have passed without the need for a medication to control fever and your child is acting normally
  • If your child has been around someone who is at higher risk for the flu, then have that person contact their doctor in the morning, or sooner if they are showing symptoms of the flu. Person at higher risk are
    • pregnant
    • less than 24 months of age
    • very overweight
    • 65 years of age or older
    • suffers from chronic health problems
  • Call your child's doctor promptly if your child begins having chest or abdominal pain, vomiting, labored breathing, dehydration, failure to behave normally (every 4 hours) or if you have any other reasons to be very concerned about your child

What NOT to do:

  • Do NOT give cough medication to your child. It is understandable that you want to comfort your child by reducing the cough; however, in this case the best medicine is NO medicine. The FDA has advised that cough/cold medicines are ineffective for coughs for children less than 6 years old and they have undesirable side effects. Coughing is a sign that the body is trying to clean its lungs of the virus so trying to stop the cough may predispose the child to pneumonia.
  • CHOA also does NOT recommend the routine use of anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu except for children considered to be high-risk

For the full guideline, click here.