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Tips to treat flu at home

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ATLANTA -

The flu is hitting early, and hard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this is shaping up to be the worst flu season we've seen in 10 years. The Georgia Department of Public Health says some school systems are already reporting high levels of absenteeism.

So if your child spikes a fever, and body aches, and a cough, it's time to head to the emergency room, right? Maybe not.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is trying to encourage parents to think twice before they take a kid with the flu into the emergency room. Because as bad as your child feels, staying home may be a safer bet.
    
"If you have a normal, healthy child who has the flu, the best place for them to be is at home, getting rest, and getting fluids," said Dr. Jim Fortenberry, chief of pediatrics at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
 
Because here's the deal: parents don't just bring their sick kids into the ER. They bring their healthy ones, too, because they don't have a babysitter or a safe place to leave them.  So the waiting areas become kind of a germ soup that everybody shares.

"You're bringing your child in with other children who may be sick, other families who may be sick.  So, you have actually the possibility of getting sick by coming to the hospital," Fortenberry said.

Flus and colds are both caused by viruses that the body has to fight off on its own.

Antibiotics won't help, unless your child has a secondary bacterial infection like pneumonia or bronchitis. That's why Children's is trying to drill home the "stay home" message.

"The best treatments are bed rest, plenty of fluids, making sure they're able to get something to eat if they're able to do that," said Fortenberry.

A fever of 102 to 103 degrees is pretty common with flu, and can usually be treated with Tylenol.   

Newborns, and kids with chronic health problem like asthma or diabetes who have flu symptoms, need to be watched more closely.

Children's website, choa.org, has tips on treating the flu at home, how long your child is contagious, and what complications to watch for.
 
"They don't need to come to the emergency room unless they're having difficulty breathing. You're having difficulty arousing them.  They're very dehydrated  and not able to keep fluids down," Fortenberry said.

If one kid catches the flu, get everyone washing their hands, and wiping down common surfaces. Dr. Fortenberry says your little one needs TLC and time at home.

"They need to get better, they need to get feeling better.  And also you want to decrease the likelihood that they're going to be passing on the flu or other viruses to other students in their class," he said.

Dr. Fortenberry says if you haven't gotten a flu shot, it's not too late to get one. It takes about two weeks for your body to build up full immunity, once you get the shot.

Flu season usually peaks in late January and early February, but we may be in for a rough few months if things stay on track.

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