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Viral Illness in Children: Care Instructions


Viruses cause many illnesses in children, from colds and stomach infections to mumps. Sometimes children have general symptoms—such as not feeling like eating or just not feeling well—that do not fit with a specific illness.

If your child has a rash, your doctor may be able to tell clearly if your child has an illness such as measles. Sometimes a child may have what is called a non-specific viral illness that is not as easy to name. A number of viruses can cause this mild illness. Antibiotics do not work for a viral illness.

Your child will probably feel better in a few days. If not, call your child's doctor or nurse advice line.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child rest.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever, pain, or fussiness. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Be careful when giving your child over-the-counter cold or influenza (flu) medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines contain acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not giving your child more than the recommended dose. Too much Tylenol can be harmful.
  • Be careful with cough and cold medicines. Don't give them to children younger than 6, because they don't work for children that age and can even be harmful. For children 6 and older, always follow all the instructions carefully. Make sure you know how much medicine to give and how long to use it. And use the dosing device if one is included.
  • Give your child lots of fluids. This is very important if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea. Give your child sips of water or drinks such as Pedialyte or Gastrolyte. These drinks contain a mix of salt, sugar, and minerals. You can buy them at drugstores or grocery stores. Give these drinks as long as your child is throwing up or has diarrhea. Do not use them as the only source of liquids or food for more than 12 to 24 hours.
  • Keep your child home from school, daycare, or other public places while your child has a fever.
  • Use cold, wet cloths on a rash to reduce itching.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of needing more fluids. These signs include sunken eyes with few tears, dry mouth with little or no spit, and little or no urine for 6 hours.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • Your child is not feeling better within 2 days.
  • Your child's symptoms are getting worse.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter D340 in the search box to learn more about "Viral Illness in Children: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.