COVID-19 has changed illness patterns and we’re all trying to figure out what a “new normal” looks like. As a result, many of our kids are sick with back-to-back viruses, inlcuding influenza or the flu. 

Connecticut Children’s Dr. Ian C. Michelow tells parents exactly what to expect with the flu, and when to worry, if at all.

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1. Expect fever—often high and for a few days.

Many kids will get fever with the flu—and it’s often the first symptom. If your child has the flu and is running a fever, ask your pediatrician when they should be rechecked for any possible secondary infection like pneumonia or an ear or sinus infection. The cough may linger. 

Remember, fever is a good thing; it means the body is doing its job and fighting an infection. Fever-reducing medications may help your child feel more comfortable. The exact temperature usually doesn’t matter, but if it is consistently high, there may be a bacterial infection at play, and you should give your pediatrician a call. Fever can lead to dehydration, so it is important to make sure your child drinks enough liquids.  

>Related: Everything You Need to Know About Fever

2. Get ready for mucous—a lot of it.  

Stock up on tissues and saline spray because you can expect a lingering cough, runny nose, and congestion that may last a week or longer.

Since there are no over-the-counter cold medications approved by the FDA for children under 6 years of age, you can help your child feel more comfortable by using a cold mist humidifier at night, saline drops, honey for kids over a year old, and a little TLC.

3. Field some strange complaints—which are quite common.

The flu can make larger muscle groups hurt. So don’t be surprised if you hear, “My leg hurts,” or, “My back hurts,” on repeat. It’s all part of the flu experience.

4. Don’t force eating—little to no appetite is expected.

This can be frustrating for parents because we want to see our kids eat and get well. They’ll get their appetite back slowly as the infection passes through their body, but patience is key. It’s more important they stay hydrated because dehydration can become a cause for concern.

Keep popsicles, water, applesauce and other hydrating foods on hand; these may be more appealing than a plate of savory food.

5. Stomach upset.

Your child may complain of nausea, vomiting, tummy aches, and loose stool. Don’t worry, unless your child is unable to drink enough fluid or develops severe diarrhea.

>Related: Tummy Troubles—Nerves, or Something Else?

6. General fatigue and lack of enthusiasm.

Every kid is different. Some kids run around with a high fever and play as if nothing is wrong, while some may want to nap the day away and sleep longer at night. Irritability is also very common, as with any illness.

Finally, here are 3 important things to consider if your child has the flu:

  1. It’s not too late for the flu shot for everyone 6 months and older. T 
  2. Look out for signs of dehydration: pale, sunken eyes, crying without tears, not urinating at least six times a day, drowsy or confused.
  3. Ask your pediatrician if your child is eligible for Tamiflu, an antiviral treatment to shorten the symptoms of flu or prevent it if your child was exposed. Know and understand the side effects, and make your decision with your doctor.

Here’s to a healthier start to the New Year.