There is a great deal of information circulating about Swine Flu this year and parents may be confused as to whether their child has swine flu, the seasonal flu or just an upper respiratory infection. Parents may wonder when, or if, they should take their child to the doctor.
The fact is, most cases of swine flu have been mild and haven't caused more discomfort than the seasonal flu. Symptoms of swine flu are also similar to those of the seasonal flu. Even so, there are certain situations where a trip to the doctor is warranted. Understanding what the swine flu symptoms are and what warning signs look like can help parents best care for their children.
Symptoms of Swine Flu in Children
For children over the age of five, symptoms of the swine flu include:
- Coughing, sore throat
- Body aches
- Some children may also have vomiting or diarrhea
For children under the age of five, symptoms may appear differently:
- Some children may have a fever as the only symptom
- Younger children more often have vomiting, stomach pain, nausea or diarrhea
- Ear infections
- Lack of appetite, babies may not be willing to drink fluids or breastfeed
- Stiff neck
- Barking or hoarse cough
High Risk Groups
For most people, bed rest, plenty of fluids and some time are all that are needed to treat the flu. There are, however, a number of high risk groups. For people with the following medical conditions, you should contact your doctor at the first sign of flu:
- A child with heart or lung disease
- Chronic health problems such as asthma, emphysema, metabolic conditions, neurological disorders and neuromuscular disorders
- Diseases which can affect immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer or diabetes
- Women or girls that are pregnant
- Children under the age of 5 are at a higher risk for developing complications from the flu
Warning Signs You Should Contact Your Doctor
If your child exhibits any of the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor:
- Won't drink any fluids, going to the bathroom less frequently than every six hours.
- Loss of interest in watching television or playing games.
- Loss of interest in eating or drinking.
- Extreme irritability
- Persistent or severe vomiting
- Symptoms begin to improve and then worsen again
- Your child's fever lasts longer than 3 days
- Your child develops wheezing
Warning Signs - Reasons to Seek Immediate Medical Attention
In addition to the above, you should contact 911 or seek immediate medical attention for any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Goes suddenly pale or lower legs are cold
- Lips or hands turn blue or purple
- Lethargic, won't wake up or respond when you try to waken him or her up
- Unable to move
- Seems confused
- Has a seizure
- Signs of dehydration such as dizziness, inability to urinate or lack of tears (in infants)
- Your baby less than 3 months old is running a high fever
- Your child has a severe headache or stiff neck
Normally, symptoms of the flu remain for between 5 and 7 days. There are some anti-viral medications that can help to reduce or lessen symptoms of the Swine Flu. You may want to contact your doctor to ask about these medications if your child is in one of the high-risk groups. For other children, treating symptoms with acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help.
"Interim Guidance for 2009 H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu): Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home", 2009, U.S. Centers for Disease Control
"Action Steps for Parents of Children at High Risk for Flu Complications", 2009, September 25, U.S. Centers for Disease Control
"Should You Worry About Swine Flu?", 2009, Dr. Steven Dowshen, Southwest Licking School System
Published On: October 13, 2009