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Ask the doctor: three common questions to ask when your child is sick

Dr. Pramod Shrestha, MD, FAAP, addresses parents' concerns about their children's health

Q. How do I take my child's temperature?

A. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends you to take your child's temperature using a digital thermometer. Don't rely on touch to tell if your child has a fever. There are several ways to take your child's temperature:

1. Rectal temperature is the most reliable and should be used for infants under 3 months of age.

2. Axillary (armpit) is another option for children older than 3 months and younger than age 4.

3. Digital ear thermometers are OK for children 6 months and older.

4. Oral temperature may be used for children who can hold a thermometer under their tongue (usually by age 4).

Your child's doctor can offer additional guidance on the best way to use a thermometer. Note: If your child is less than 3 months old and has a temperature of more than 100.4 F, call a doctor.

Q. How can I be sure I'm giving my child the correct dosages of medication?

A. When giving your child any medication, whether over-the-counter or prescription, be sure to measure the dose exactly. Ask your doctor for the medication doses in milliliters (ml) as calculated by your child's body weight in kilogram (kg). Always measure each dose of liquid medication using a device (syringe, cup or spoon) that is marked in milliliters. Do not use kitchen teaspoons and tablespoons.

Q. What should I do if my child has the flu?

A. If your child is sick with influenza, he or she may have symptoms including body aches, chills, cough, fever, headache, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Watch for worsening symptoms and seek help right away if your child has trouble breathing, isn't drinking enough fluids, doesn't interact normally or has severe, persistent vomiting.

For a normally healthy child, the flu can be treated at home and recovery time is about two weeks. However, some children are at higher risk for flu complications and should see a doctor for treatment. Those at high risk include children younger than age 5 (especially those younger than age 2) and those who have chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems. Antiviral medications can make flu symptoms milder and shorten the time of illness. Your doctor can prescribe these medications, and they work best when started within two days of getting sick.

While recuperating at home, make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks lots of fluids. He or she may find relief from the following:

1. Saline drops or sprays, or a cool-mist humidifier for a stuffy nose.

2. Honey or lozenges for a cough. Do not give honey to a baby who is younger than 1 year old. Use ½ teaspoon for 1- to 5-year-olds, one teaspoon for children ages 6 to 11 or two teaspoons for children ages 12 and older. Avoid giving your child lozenges if he or she is younger than age 4. They pose a choking risk.

3. Single-ingredient acetaminophen or ibuprofen for body aches and fever. Use acetaminophen for babies, ages 3 to 6 months. For infants younger than 3 months, check with your child's doctor.

A flu shot is the best way to protect your child from the flu. The vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older. It's especially important for children younger than age 5 and those with health conditions.

Dr. Pramod Shrestha is a pediatrician with East Central District Health Department / Good Neighbor Community Health Center.

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