I used to wonder what I’d do when baby gets the flu. How would I know, since my 10-month-old can’t tell me that “my tummy feels funny” or “my head feels woozy”? Would Sunshine just be fussy and upset all day? And how would I take care of her, since feeding her chicken noodle soup and ginger ale isn’t an option?
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When Baby Gets the Flu…
This week the flu went through our house. Sunshine got it first. She woke up from a nap with what I thought was spit-up all over her face. As I leaned over the bathroom to sink to wash her face, she opened her mouth and threw up.
She made it look so easy—no heaving or retching, just a mild look of surprise after each time, as if to ask, “What’s happening?”
By the time she finished, my husband had walked in the door and I yelled for help. We got her cleaned up, but she seemed happy enough. The next morning she threw up again and then had diarrhea all day, but kept playing with her toys.
I figured if this was a sick baby, it wasn’t too bad.
When Mommy Gets the Flu…
Then I got it. The worst of it hit after I put Sunshine to bed. I spent the night running back and forth to the bathroom.
The next day, I lay on the couch watching Sunshine play. If there was a bright side to being sick, it was the chance to watch her entertaining herself. My eyes drifted shut, and each time I opened them, she’d be somewhere else, checking out another toy or object.
For a while, she sat playing with her wooden blocks and a cup that has her name on it in bright letters. She’s discovered “in,” and so she would drop a block or two into the cup, shake it up and dump it out, put the block back in, take it out, put another one in.
She even put a few blocks back into the box—recently I taught her to help me clean up her blocks.
At the end of that day, I figured we’d seen the worst of the flu and gotten over it.
The next day, I tried to catch up on some editing and Sunshine played as usual, other than occasionally putting her head down on the floor. Then in the afternoon she got fussy. I couldn’t figure out why, until she threw up again and just wanted to cuddle. She also seemed hot.
When Baby’s Flu Gets Worse…
I spent the evening holding her, taking her temperature, and reading The Baby Book by Dr. Sears. He gave cautions for if the baby was under three months old and what to do for older children, but there didn’t seem to be much advice specifically for a ten-month-old baby.
I carefully read the list of illnesses and symptoms and decided she just had the flu.
Her fever cleared up by morning and again I figured, now we’re over it. That evening, as she snuggled with me while we were watching a movie, I thought that this was another plus to a sick baby—she’s snugglier.
Sunshine is usually too busy playing or exploring to snuggle much, except for nap times, when she’s finished fighting sleep and dozing like an angel in my arms. So having her snuggled quietly with me in the chair, rocking together, was a peaceful, mommy feeling. A feeling I’ll treasure, because I know that as she gets older and busier, I might have to wait for another sick day to hold her like this again.
Treating Baby’s Flu
If your baby starts acting like Sunshine, you can usually keep her comfortable as I did. A fever is an indication that your baby is fighting an infection. Monitor the fever (Dr. Sears recommends keeping a chart or notes with the time and temperature taken, in case you do need to see a doctor).
A good digital baby thermometer is helpful. I had a simple thermometer that required I hold it under baby’s arm for a minute to get the correct temperature. Let’s just say 60 seconds is a long time when you’re holding a baby who doesn’t like this thing under her arm.
Let baby sleep or play in just her diaper or a onesie to help reduce the fever. You could also put baby in a lukewarm bath. Encourage baby to nurse or drink water from a sippy cup to avoid dehydration.
Keep baby in an area that’s easy to clean if she’s throwing up. Help her sit up or throw up into a bowl or sink. Some babies get upset about throwing up; it’s a strange, sometimes violent sensation. Comfort baby as much as possible.
Wash your hands frequently when taking care of baby to avoid spreading the flu. If possible, clean any areas baby has been in with bleach or essential oils. I also start taking Echinaforce or echinacea tea to boost my own immune system.
Boiron’s homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum treats flu symptoms and is safe to use for all ages. This remedy comes in the form of small pellets in a tube. The instructions say to dissolve in water for children under age 2.
I’ve found, however, that then I’m worried about whether my infant has finished all the water and gotten all the remedy. If baby is eating some solids, she’ll likely take the pellets. Put a few on your finger and then on her tongue, or give her a few at a time using a spoon.
If you’re sick too, Oscillococcinum will help treat your symptoms so you can keep an eye on baby.
Essential oils may also help with baby’s flu symptoms. Diffuse essential oils or dilute carefully in a carrier oil when using essential oils topically for babies. Essential oils can also be added to baths (or showers for mom) to help treat cold and flu symptoms. For more about essential oils, see Essential Oils: All-natural remedies and recipes for your mind, body and home.
You can diffuse oils such as eucalyptus to purify the air and help eliminate flu odours. If baby is fussing, chamomile or lavender could help calm them. Lemon or anise may help calm their tummy.
Has your baby had the flu? What helped him or her feel better?
UPDATED 2019. I am not a medical doctor; I’m simply sharing what has worked for me in treating my sick babies. If you are concerned about your baby’s flu symptoms, please see your own doctor or visit a local walk-in clinic.