What should you do if your child gets H1N1 swine flu? It’s a question many parents are facing this flu season. While the majority of cases for children and teens have been mild, requiring only home treatment, a growing number of children -- some with no underlying medical conditions -- have needed hospitalization or have died from the disease.
Here are answers to common questions about treating H1N1 swine flu in your children and advice on when you need to seek medical attention.
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What if your child gets sick? What are symptoms of swine flu in children?
"Influenza is very different from the common cold,” says Joseph Bocchini, MD, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Disease. Bocchini is also chairman of the department of pediatrics at Louisiana State University. “Classically, with influenza, children have sudden onset of significant fever with respiratory symptoms. High fever, chills. Older children will complain of headache, scratchy sore throat, and muscle aches. Children will develop a nasal congestion and cough."
What should parents do if their child has flu-like symptoms?
This flu season, it's more important than ever to keep sick children at home until at least 24 hours after their symptoms go away.
“If a child has mild illness, or something that looks like the flu, with fever and chills, headache, body ache, coughing, sore throat, they should definitely stay home from school or day care, says pediatrician Heather O’Donnell, MD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Bronx, N.Y. "They should continue taking Tylenol and Motrin for fever. Parents should encourage hydration.”
If your child is 5 years old or older and is otherwise healthy, consult your doctor as needed -- and follow O'Donnell's advice to make sure the child drinks enough fluids and gets a lot of rest.
If your child is younger than 5, or if your child of any age has a medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or a neurologic problem, call your doctor or get medical attention. Younger kids and kids with longstanding medical conditions are at risk of serious disease if they get either seasonal or pandemic H1N1 swine flu.