Le Bonheur wants to help you protect your child from the flu. Jon McCullers, MD, Le Bonheur’s pediatrician-in-chief and chair of Pediatrics for The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, answered some common questions parents might have.

What is seasonal flu?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It spreads among people and can cause mild to severe illness.

What can I do to protect my children?

The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. Proper hand hygiene and good cough etiquette are also critical. Encourage your children to wash and sanitize their hands frequently. Cover all coughs and cough into your sleeve.

How can I treat flu symptoms at home?

If you suspect your child has the flu, call your pediatrician. There are anti-viral medications that can be prescribed by your doctor, but these medications are most effective when given early in the course of illness. To relieve your child’s pain and symptoms, first administer fluids and make sure your child is getting plenty of rest. Acetaminophen helps with the aches, pains and fever reduction. To protect others, keep your child home for 24 hours after the fever goes away.

When should I get the flu vaccine?

Now. The shot can protect children to some effect as early as seven days after the vaccine, although full protection takes two to three weeks. The vaccine offered now protects against approximately 95 percent of all flu viruses.

Should my child receive the shot (injection) form or the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine?

In general, healthy children and adults ages 2-49 years of age may receive either the injection or the aerosolized (nasal spray) version of the vaccine. Children ages 6 months to 2 years (and adults 50 years of age or older) should receive the injectable vaccine, as should children and adults with underlying medical conditions.

When should I seek emergency medical treatment for my child?

Uncomplicated flu (fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, generally feeling sick) can and should be diagnosed by your child’s pediatrician, rather than the Emergency Department. The ED can help deal with complications of the flu, including severe dehydration, febrile seizures from the flu, and infections of the brain or lungs. Pneumonia, when the disease moves to the lungs, can either be viral or result from bacteria complicating the flu infection.

Read more about preventing the flu.