Swine Flu and Children – Facts, Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment, and Vaccination

h1n1 planetWHO on June 11th 2009. Its pandemic status means that it is documented as spreading virally from person to person across the globe. Since young children have been deemed a particularly susceptible group to contracting swine flu, it's important for adults caring for children to know the facts about this ailment and how to prevent it.

Facts about Swine Flu in Children

As a parent or child care minder here are some facts about swine flu and its affect on children:

  • Children between the ages of 0 and 4 are deemed a high risk group for swine flu, meaning they have the highest chances of contracting the disease.
  • The CDC estimates that 22.9 out of every 100,000 kids between 0-4 years may contract swine flu. This is the second highest risk-percentage according to age group in the US.
  • The CDC also estimates that 4.5 children out of every 100,000 between the ages of 0-4 who have contracted swine flu will need to be hospitalized as a result of the disease.
  • Swine flu may be responsible for the deaths of 2% of children who are between the ages of 0 and 4 years.

Swine Flu Signs and Symptoms in Toddlers

Flu season typically lasts from October to February, so as a parent or child minder you need to be especially vigilant about watching out for signs and symptoms of swine flu. Since the symptoms are similar to regular influenza, they can be especially hard to identify and isolate. Here are some signs you should watch for in toddlers:

  • Sudden fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Dry cough
  • Headaches, body aches, and muscle aches
  • Chills and fatigue

While the above symptoms are common with regular flu, swine flu may additionally cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Although most of the above symptoms may be treatable with over-the-counter medication and at-home care, parents should know the warning signs for when emergency medical treatment is required. You should rush your child to the hospital if symptoms include:

  • A rash accompanying the fever
  • Fast labored breaths or trouble breathing
  • Lethargy and disinterest in normal routine
  • Bluish skin color
  • Dehydration or visible lack of thirst
  • Constant irritability and not wanting to be held
  • Temporary improvement in flu symptoms followed by a high fever and cough

Swine Flu Prevention and Treatment for Young Kids

Since swine flu is transmitted via airborne droplets in the air and contracted virally, it is essential that everyone follow basic hygiene practices for its prevention. Adults need to inculcate the following habits in kids to reduce the chances of contracting swine flu:

  • Regular hand-washing with soap and water, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. Alcohol-based hand washes are also effective.
  • Avoiding close contact with visibly sick people (especially those sneezing and coughing openly).
  • Coughing or sneezing in the crook of your arm (not in the palm) or using a tissue to cough or sneeze into and discarding the tissue immediately after use.
  • Using a face mask or respirator to prevent inhaling the flu virus.
  • Not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth frequently since the flu spreads through inhalation or contact with facial cavities.
  • Staying away from crowded places such as cinemas, shopping malls, and other places where large groups of people may congregate.

Swine flu vaccinations are the recommended form of preventing swine flu; however, they are not fail-safe. Swine flu is typically treated with anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu or Relenza.

Swine Flu Vaccination for Kids

Currently, 250 million doses of flu vaccine are being rolled out for America's 2009-2010 flu season since officials expect more cases of swine flu this year than any previous year. The CDC recommends that anyone who falls in the high-risk categories should get vaccinated. Certain factors, such as asthma, diabetes, a weakened immune system, severe anemia, chronic heart, or kidney disease put children at even higher risk of developing swine flu related complications, and as such these kids should be placed on a priority vaccination schedule.

There are two types of vaccinations currently being offered: a flu shot (needle injected into skin) and a nasal spray flu vaccine (inhaled directly through the nose). The injection can be administered in kids older than 6 months, while the nasal spray may be used for kids above age 2.

For more information on the closest clinic to get vaccinated, use the Flu Shot Locater.

(Article compiled from information at cdc.gov and flu.gov)

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