As the flu outbreak grows nationwide, pediatricians are seeing patient volumes increase dramatically.
And Loyola University pediatrician Bridget Boyd says it’s not just one child per visit.
"I’m seeing either one child or two children in the family, and the parents are also sick with flu like symptoms. ... I’m seeing entire families," said Boyd.
Boyd on Thursday said there’s a safe way to battle the flu virus, and the first "no no" on the list is providing cough and cold medicines for kids under the age of four years.
For children between the ages of four and six years, over the counter cough and cold medicine should only be administered under a physicians supervision, she said.
The assistant professor of pediatrics explained that even for children older than six, parents should be careful to read labels because age is only part of the equation; many of the dosage recommendations are based on weight.
So what’s the danger if young children get these over the counter cough and cold meds?
"The reason we don’t recommend them is that accidental overdose is especially common with over the counter cough and cold medications," she said. "The side effects can even include an rapid or irregular heart beat and even convulsions."
As a parent herself, Boyd said she understands a caretaker's caring concern.
"The most frustrating thing is you want to give them something to make them feel better," she said.
Aside from medicine, Boyd reminded that there are other remedies:
For babies under the age of one year, nasal passages can be cleared using a nasal spray and bulb syringe. It's especially helpful if done before the child eats.
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A humidifier by the bed also helps, and for kids three months or older, Boyd suggested a chest rub like the one Vicks makes.
Once a child is older than one, they can get honey, a natural cough suppressant.
For all ages, however, parents need to keep an eye out for dehydration.
Sometimes, she said kids won’t drink because their throats are so sore. Parents can try giving the child a Popsicle or painkiller before they drink something so it’s less uncomfortable.
However, Dr. Boyd said the most important measure is one parents have likely heard: get a flu shot.
For babies under the age of six months, who can’t get the vaccine, protection comes from having all the adults and other kids around them vaccinated.
In this outbreak, she said the youngest and the oldest are most at risk because of how sick they can get.