Swine flu : Parents, please do not panic

“Swine flu” the dreaded word which sends shivers down any parents spine is an illness fraught with fear, anxiety and confusion. We will sort them out one by one.
  • Swine flu is an illness caused by a virus called Influenza virus

  • The type of influenza virus can change every year. Accordingly, the type of vaccine also changes every year

  • Swine flu in India peaks before and during the monsoons instead of winter as in the western countries. So, watch out for those outbreaks

  • Swine flu behaves like any other viral illness in most children, with symptoms of cold, cough, fever and body pain

  • It spreads through nasal and oral secretions i.e. by coughing, sneezing or coming in close contact with an infected person

  • Most of the children recover on their own with symptomatic or home based treatment

  • Small subset of children infected with swine flu may develop life threatening complications

  • Swine flu can be prevented by vaccination; ask for the latest strain of the vaccine during vaccination

  • High risk children should be vaccinated annually, especially before the onset of monsoons

  • O seltamivir is the drug of choice for treatment of swine flu; it cannot be bought without a doctor’s prescription

So, when my child is having cough, cold, fever, when should i suspect it might be swine flu?
  • Rapid development of symptoms

  • Persistent high grade fever

  • Fever not responding within 48 hours of starting antibiotics

  • Child looking very sick, even without fever

  • Loose motions, vomiting and evidences of dehydration like less urine output

  • Breathing difficulty

So, what will the doctor do?

  • Examine child clinically and ask for a Chest XRay.

  • May check oxygen saturations at the clinic

  • Order lab tests to diagnose swine flu…the surest way to diagnose

  • Start treatment immediately, if clinical suspicion is high without waiting for the reports

  • Order isolation of the child till reports come

When do i know that my child might be developing complications?

  • High, continous fever not responding to medicines

  • Lethargy, listlessness

  • Excessive sleepiness

  • Poor feeding

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Bluish tinge of lips and skin, especially while coughing

  • Chest pain

Which children are at the risk of getting infections and complications?

Any child can get infected with swine flu but some children are at higher risk for complications like,

  • Children <5 years age

  • Children with heart or lung problems

  • Children with diabetes

If your child has been diagnosed or suspected with swine flu, what next?
  • DO NOT PANIC. Most children get better without any major complications

  • Hydrate your child by giving plenty of fluids to drink, continue breastfeeding

  • Don’t change or introduce a new diet. Let your child continue to have a balanced diet

  • Rest, avoid excess activity

  • Control the fever by using paracetamol, tepid water sponging. Avoid aspirin

  • Symptomatic medicines for cold, aches and cough may be prescribed by the doctor

  • Isolate your child for atleast 7 days after fever

  • Antibiotics - Not required unless any pneumonia or ear infection develops

  • Antivirals like oseltamivir are not necessarily required as it is a self limited infection in majority. It is used for children at high risk or those with complications

Hospitalisation may be required if any evidence of complications or your doctor anticipates any complication

Preventing spread to others in the family:


  • Wash hands often with soap and running water

  • Dry thoroughly

  • Use hand sanitisers when soap and water not accessible

  • Disposable tissues are better as compared to handkerchief

  • Throw away the tissues in the dustbin

  • Use of a mask to cover mouth and nose

  • Clean door knobs etc with disinfectant

  • Avoid sharing of utensils


Influenza vaccination

  • Given to high risk children above 6 months of age

  • Offers some protection against prevailing swine flu virus strain

  • Protection from the vaccine lasts for around a year

  • In India, it is not a mandatory vaccine but a vaccine to be given after discussion with the parents

  • Given annually, usually when the new strain is released or before the onset of monsoons

Disclaimer : "The information is based on standard medical guidelines and is purely informative. Not to be used for treatment.”

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