How to Detect Flu in Non-Verbal Children

The flu we are seeing right now is seemingly leaving no family untouched, and experts say it’s not going away anytime soon. Sadly, 53 children have died from this particular strain since October. 

While it’s easy enough to spot the obvious signs of flu in your child such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, we often don’t notice it until they tell us something’s wrong … as in “my tummy hurts,” “my head hurts,” or “I think I’m gonna’ throw up!”

However, if your child is a non-verbal child, it can be much harder to know when they’re sick. They simply can’t tell you.

Neurologic conditions that may cause a child to be non-verbal include: cerebral palsy, epilepsy or other seizure disorders, learning and developmental disorders, traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries, and prematurity at birth.

Children who contract the flu with these types of conditions may be at risk for serious complications due to decreased muscle or lung function, and difficulty with coughing, swallowing, and clearing airways. That’s why it’s very important to look for signs. These include:

•             Dehydration (dark urine or very little urine)

•             Fever

•             Change in appetite

•             Vomiting or diarrhea

•             Raspy or wheezy breathing

•             Changes in skin (rashy or clammy)

•             Unable to hold head up, even when it’s supported

•             Extreme drowsiness or heightened irritability

If you notice any of these symptoms lasting for more than 24 hours, visit your physician right away. There are antiviral prescription medications that can be given to lessen symptoms of the flu, but they are only effective if taken at the earliest onset of illness.

Make sure your doctor is aware of any regular medications your child takes (if not seeing your usual caregiver), so they can ensure there is no drug interference with the flu medication.

Remember to also keep whatever channels of communication you do have in reach as they recover, whether it be letter boards or electronic devices propped up for them while resting on a sofa or in bed.

If you have concerns about your child’s condition and contracting the flu, please contact us for an appointment with one of our specialists.

(Adapted from A Day in Our Shoes)

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