The flu got you down? Walmart’s guide to managing flu symptoms will have you and your family feeling better again in no time.
Are you sick with the flu, or caring for someone who is? You’ve come to the right place. Walmart.ca’s guide to managing the flu is packed with tips and ideas to help you get through that sick spell. From how to ease flu symptoms in children, to recognizing when to see a doctor, you’ll find expert advice to help you manage the flu.
Dr. Allison McGeer is a Microbiologist, Infectious Disease Consultant, and the Director of Infection Control and the Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Research Program at the Sinai Health System in Toronto, Canada, and a Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She has been a member of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization, and the Ontario Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee.
Dr. Dina Kulik is one of Canada’s leading child health media experts, providing child health information to parents and the public through television, radio and print media and via her blog DrDina.ca. A mother of four boys and a pediatrician in Toronto, she is the founder and CEO of Kidcrew, a multidisciplinary clinic for kids health.
Table of Contents
- How to manage the flu
- Managing the flu: When to seek help from a doctor
- How long does it take to get over the flu?
- Tips to help your child prevent and manage the flu
1 How to manage the flu
“By the time you get to be an adult, everyone has their favourite things we believe will make us feel better,” says Dr. McGeer. “It’s really just living through it and being comfortable.”
Still, according to Dr. McGeer, there are things you can do to feel better including taking a fever reducer /pain reliever such containing acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g. Advil). “Stay hydrated to reduce the severity of a cough,” she suggests.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the flu once you have it. The only thing to do is to manage symptoms to help you feel better while your immune system fights off the illness. Humidifiers and lozenges can also help in this regard. “All those things are fine if you [find] they help you feel better but they won’t alter the course of illness,” informs Dr. McGeer. “They’ll just make you feel better until your immune system gets rid of the illness.”
2 Managing the flu: When to seek help from a doctor
Not sure whether you need to see a doctor? According to Dr. McGeer, it comes down to whether you’re experiencing complications or just the virus. “For adults, it’s about identifying complications,” she says “Things that trigger concern are really high fever with chills, and when symptoms start to get better after three to four days and then get worse … Shortness of breath or pain when you take a deep breath, she continues. “These are things that might suggest there is an infection in the lungs rather than just an influenza-like illness.”
Things that are less concerning: “You don’t have to worry about green drainage from your nose,” says Dr. McGeer. “A cough is a very common symptom; it can be annoying, but it’s not generally a sign of serious illness.”
If you’re worried, a doctor can help distinguish whether or not you have an infection, and prescribe medications as necessary. As for heading to the hospital, Dr. McGeer suggests you should go there if you have chest pain, or trouble breathing. “Go to the emergency room when you can’t go to a doctor, and you can’t breathe properly,” she says. “There are measures a hospital can use to get the body functioning normally until you’re better, as well as specific drugs and antivirals to get you better faster.”
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3 How long does it take to get over the flu?
“Half of the infections are asymptomatic; there’s no duration at all and you don’t get sick,” says Dr. McGeer. She notes the flu can range from a mild illness of just a day or two to fever, cough and feeling unwell for about a week. “Most commonly, by day three or four, the fever is gone and everything gets better, and the cough hangs on for another week or so,” she explains. “The older you are, the more medical conditions you have, the longer it can last. It can take two to three weeks before feeling better. Some people can feel profound fatigue afterward also that can last weeks.”
4 Tips to help your child prevent and manage the flu
“Just like older adults, kids can get really sick with the flu,” says Dr. Kulik. “Babies, in particular, can get really sick because their immune system is not as robust. In the winter, they are more vulnerable as they are inside in enclosed spaces. Young children may also not wash their hands as well.”
To help prevent the flu, Dr. Kulik recommends the flu vaccine as soon as it’s available for all children over six months old. “Even kids who are allergic to egg can get the flu shot, as it’s made in an egg, not with egg, so it’s safe,” she says.
Teach your child to practise good hygiene, and make sure they eat a well-balanced diet. As for vitamins and supplements, Dr. Kulik says there’s no convincing evidence that they can help protect against the flu. But if you have a really picky eater with a narrow diet, a multi-vitamin can help them get the nutrients they are missing for overall health and wellness.
As for managing the flu in children, Dr. Kulik says: “Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help decrease pain and fever.” She also recommends fluids, rest and honey to soothe the throat in children older than one year of age. “Vaporizers and humidifiers can help decrease congestion,” she continues. “Tamiflu, an antiviral medication, can be used in children at high risk or who have respiratory issues, such as those with asthma, or those with premature lungs.”
One thing to avoid, however, is Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), cautions Dr. Kulik. “Aspirin, or ASA, is not recommended for children because of the risk of Reye’s Syndrome,” she warns. “If a child has the flu and has exposure to Aspirin, it can be toxic, deadly, and can cause liver damage and other problems.”
Dr. Kulik also recommends against over-the-counter medications for very young children (6 or under). “Short of children’s Advil and Tylenol, kids shouldn’t be getting any medicine,” she says. She also recommends avoiding eucalyptus oil and camphor in kids. “They can be potentially toxic,” she warns. Dr. Kulik recommends Vicks Babyrub instead of regular Vicks because it does not have camphor in it. “Make sure it’s out of limits so your child doesn’t get into it. It can be toxic when ingested.” Walmart pharmacists are happy to help if you have any questions.
If your child has a persistent cough or high fever for more than two to three days, a rash, or has difficulty breathing or speaking, or if they’re turning blue, take them to the hospital.