How to medicate a virus

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – Illness has been so widespread among children in East Tennessee that several schools remain closed through this week.

Most of the illnesses circulating right now are viral, and experts say the only option is to try to treat the symptoms.

Emergency room physicians at East Tennessee Children's Hospital have treated a record number of patients over the last week with as many as 320 children in a single day.

"Of the three major ones that are going on, influenza is certainly kind of at its peak right now,” said Dr. Ryan Redman, who practices Pediatric Emergency Medicine. “In addition, we're still having our RSV and bronchiolitis season, as well as the kind of unnamed viral illnesses."

According to Dr. Redman, the viruses can't be cured, so parents can only try to treat their child's symptoms.

But FDA safety experts recommended a ban on over the counter multi-symptom cold medicines for children six and younger, so your options are much fewer.

"That can be the most frustrating part of the whole thing,” Dr. Redman said. “There are, for a lot of children, not a lot of good options as far as medicines that are both effective and safe."

He said FDA safety experts now recommend acetaminophen and ibuprofen for children two months and older with a low grade fever.

You can by exactly that, sold under brand names such as Children's Tylenol, Children's Advil and Children's Motrin, but safety experts also recommend using non-medicinal routes of treatment, whenever possible.

"Usually the biggest thing is supportive care,” said Dr. Redman, “which usually entails using Tylenol and ibuprofen for fevers, pushing a lot of fluids and keeping rooms nice and humidified."

Among the things you can do, put a vaporizer in your child's bedroom to keep the air moist and at night, and elevate your child's head to help him or her breathe

You can also use nasal saline drops to help with congestion.

Remember to try and avoid using over the counter medications, and if you do use them, read the labels to make sure they don't duplicate each other in ingredients.

If a fever persists, call a doctor.

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