How to Treat the Flu in Toddlers Without Losing Your Mind

The dreaded flu season…

If you’re a mom of a toddler, then you know that dealing with the flu isn’t as easy as it sounds. A baby will take any treatment you give them, but a toddler? A toddler will fight you, complain, whine, cry, and scream every single day he’s sick.

If you have no idea how to treat the flu in toddlers then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll cover some of the most effective flu remedies for your tiny rebel, so he can be back on his feet in no time.


How to Treat the Flu in Toddlers Without Losing Your Mind

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Does Your Toddler Have the Flu? 

When your toddler isn’t communicating verbally yet, it can be difficult to diagnose exactly what is wrong with him. Having said that, there are a few dead giveaways that you’re not just dealing with a nasty cold.

Top Flu Symptoms in Toddlers:

  • Sudden and consistent high fever that will not go away
  • Throwing up/ diarrhea
  • Sudden cough
  • Fatigue (Your toddler will want to do nothing but sleep!)
  • Discomfort (Your toddler will do just about anything but sleep…)
  • Chills and Muscle Aches

Related Article: 10 Infant Flu Home Remedies

5 Quick and Easy Ways to Treat the Flu in Toddlers

1 Appropriate Medicine

Congratulations! Your “baby” is now old enough to take some medicine. If you’d like to minimize your toddler’s fever and discomfort, you can administer an appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Just be aware that aspirin is still off the table.

You toddler is also probably too young to take cough syrup. The FDA says that children 2 and older can take cough syrup, however, most drug manufacturers specify waiting until at least 4-6 years.

If you’re not a fan of pharmaceuticals, don’t worry. We’ll go over several toddler flu remedies that are completely natural and very effective.

2 Remove Snot

When you treat the flu in toddlers, one of the most important symptoms to treat quickly and effectively is your toddler’s runny nose. A runny nose can create a nasty cycle of insomnia and exhaustion, followed quickly by congestion and upper respiratory illness.

If your toddler will let you do it,  The Baby Nose Frida is, hands down the best mucus removal system.

Unfortunately, most toddlers hate it. You might have better luck with saline sprays and mists.

My snot removal hack is to make a game of it. For the most part, toddlers love to copy everything you do. Try pretending to spray the saline up your own nose. Laugh, make silly faces, and ask him if he’d like to try. Eventually, when he lets you spray a little in his nose, you can try acting like it tastes good.

As disgusting as this sounds, toddlers love the cocktail of salt water and snot dripping out of his nose. Your goal is to flush out her nose as much as possible. You can use a homemade saline solution and a baby dropper, or you can purchase a saline mist.

My absolute favorite saline mist is the Little Remedies Sterile Saline Mist. The pressure is forceful yet gentle enough that it removes the mucus quickly and effectively.

Every time my daughter is sick, I whip out this saline mist and flush her nose before every nap and as needed throughout the day. This mist will go quickly though; I’d invest in a 3 pack!

(Note: As your toddler gets older, you may be able to teach him to blow his nose. Once again, copycat has worked wonderfully in the past for me. Playfully blow your nose and then put a fresh kleenex up to your toddler and encourage him to do the same.)

3 Probiotics

Studies have shown that supplementing probiotics can be an extremely effective way to treat the flu in toddlers. It can give your toddler the extra boost he needs to combat the virus and even relieve some of his symptoms, like diarrhea and acid reflux.

So how do you give your toddler probiotics?

Your baby may or may not be nursing at this age. If he’s still nursing, consider waiting to wean until the worst of the cold season is over. Not only does your breast milk contain incredible antibodies, but it also contains prebiotics, another key ingredient to excellent immune health.

If your baby has been weaned, focus on serving food with probiotics and other immunity-boosting ingredients, such as yogurt (my daughter LOVES the Organic Yo Baby yogurt by Stonyfield), kale, garlic, spinach, kiwi, and poultry.

You can also try probiotic supplements (especially if your toddler doesn’t handle dairy too well yet).

Check out Culturelle Probiotic Kid Purely Probiotic packets. I love this product for two main reasons: 1. It contains the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. This is the most studied probiotic sold commercially and shown to reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections.

And, Culturelle is the #1 pediatrician recommended brand.

I’ve been giving my toddler the dissolvable powder packet. It’s tasteless, so out of sight, out of mind! You can always buy the packets on Amazon, but I recommend buying them directly from Culturelle. Use the code babyland20 for 20% off!

My sick toddler enjoying some stonyfield baby yogurt
My sick toddler enjoying some Stonyfield Baby Yogurt


4 Give Plenty of Liquids

Sometimes it’s easier to treat the flu in toddlers with outright trickery.

Dehydration is a serious concern when your toddler has the flu. The trouble is, many toddlers are nonverbal and downright defiant when liquids are involved. If you’re finding that your toddler will not drink liquids (such as water, milk, or even juice), you might need to use creative methods.

My daughter is awful about drinking anything on a good day. Here are a few of our hacks to get her to drink more:

  • Broths
  • Pedialyte-infused Popsicle
  • Soup
  • Sucking a wet washcloth
  • Letting her drink clean bath water (I’m probably a bad mom for even recommending this one…)
  • Baby food packets – This is not a substitute for milk or water but they are high in water content
  • Adding milk or water to favorite foods


Effective Home Remedies to Treat the Flu in Toddlers

5 Treat Pain and Insomnia

Rest is absolutely essential for your toddler’s recovery. The trouble is, when your baby is pain, it can be very difficult to treat get rest. So, in order to treat insomnia, you must treat the pain.

The most common causes of pain during the flu are sore throat and muscle cramps.

Sore Throats

It’s hard to diagnose a sore throat in nonverbal toddlers, so it can be extremely difficult to treat it. However, if you notice a loss in appetite, extra crankiness, or a raspy voice, it might be time to try a few toddler sore throat treatments.

Like cough syrup, most drug manufacturers won’t recommend throat lozenges until your child is at least 4 years older.

My favorite sore throat treatments are:

  • Soup and broths (anything liquid-y and warm)
  • Fruity warm tea with honey
  • Warm water or milk with honey (if over a year)
  • Cold Air Humidifier
  • Ice cream
  • Cold yogurt

Fever-Related Pain

We all know what it feels like to have the fever: muscle cramps, skin sensitivity, and the chills prevent us from sleeping even when we want to. For a toddler that has no idea what’s happening to his body, it’s just that much worse.

To lessen the effects of his fever, try a tepid bath or sponge bath (if your toddler is anything like mine, he may hate the sensation of water on his skin).

I also love using essential oils to treat flu-related pains. If you’ve never considered using essential oils (or if you’ve heard of them and you think they’re a little hokey), check out my post on using essential oils for colds. I go over exactly what oils are safe to use and how they can help. Lavender, mandarin, and sandalwood are considered excellent (science-backed) oils to reduce the muscle pains and have a mild sedative effect.

RELATED POST: 10 Highly Effective Essential Oils for Baby and Toddler Cold Symptoms

When to See a Doctor for the Flu in Toddlers

If you truly believe that your toddler has the flu, it doesn’t hurt to visit the doctor. If caught early enough, he may recommend a version of Tamiflu.

Having said that, when you treat the flu in toddlers, watch out for symptoms that need immediate medical attention:

  • Unusually high fever (over 104 degrees)
  • Blue-ish lips
  • Continuous wet cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days.

If you notice these symptoms, visit your doctor, urgent care clinic, or ER immediately. Even if it results in nothing, at least you will have the peace of mind knowing that your toddler is safe.

How to Treat the Flu in Toddlers Conclusion

Honestly, it can be downright scary learning how to treat the flu in toddlers. Not only are toddlers unable to fully voice their pains, but they will often fight you every step of the way.

And who can blame them? They don’t feel good, they have no idea what’s going on, and they just want the illness to be over.

For now, try the tips above to keep him hydrated and fed (even if it means he eats his favorite meals for the next few days 😉 ), treat his fever symptoms as best you can, and facilitate plenty of rest.

If you’d like to check out more flu home remedies, check out my post What to Do When Your Baby Has the Flu: 10 Infant Flu Home Remedies. This post was written specifically for infants, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find some remedies that can help your toddler as well.

Good luck, Mama! Let us know what flu remedies worked best for you in the comments below!


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