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Influenza: A dangerous virus for children

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Influenza screening is at its most accurate after around 24 hours of the patient experiencing fever symptoms.
  • Because the influenza virus undergoes mutations, which are then spread each year, vaccinations are therefore altered to combat these mutations meaning that new vaccinations are required on an annual basis.

 

Influenza

Caused by the Influenza virus, the flu is found throughout the year in Thailand but spreads quickest during the rainy season. The flu can affect anyone of any age. However, children are more at risk than adults, especially young infants.

How the virus spreads

The virus is spread via contact with saliva and nasal secretion of someone already infected.
Symptoms of the flu

  • A high fever, a runny nose, headaches, muscle pains, loss of appetite and a fever lasting between 3-7 days
  • Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur
  • A cough and runny nose for 1-2 weeks

The symptoms may worsen to a point where admission to hospital is required due to complications, such as pneumonia, resulting from the virus.

Diagnosis

Virus screening is carried out with a swab test taken from the throat or nose of the patient, with results being at their most accurate once the patient has already experienced a fever for 24 hours.

Medication used to treat influenza

  • The antiviral drug, Oseltamivir, can yield positive results when administered within the first 3 days of symptoms presenting themselves.
  • Antibiotics are not effective in eradicating the influenza virus.
  • Other medications may also be used to treat the symptoms themselves, such as decongestants and medication to treat a fever.

Caring for children who have the flu

  • Try to ease the fever’s symptoms by wiping the affected infant with a cool flannel, ensuring they wear breathable clothing, keeping the room temperature at a suitable level, and giving them medication to reduce the fever.
  • Get the child with flu to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Give the affected infant bland foods that will not cause an upset stomach.
  • The child should wear a mask, wash his or her hands regularly, and keep the things he or she touches separate from other people.
  • It is recommended that children with the flu stay off school for around 5-7 days depending on the severity of their symptoms.

Prevention

  • Make sure hands are washed thoroughly, regularly and with soap, especially when outside or before eating. Antibacterial gels may also be used instead of soap and water to clean hands.
  • Try to keep children away from people suffering with the flu, and avoid any congested spaces.
  • Vaccinate against the influenza virus.
    • The influenza vaccine can be given from the age of 6 months upwards and should be administered annually thereafter. The vaccine is effective around 40-60% of the time.
    • Those with chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, as well as young children under the age of 2 years, may experience severe symptoms if infected with the flu virus so it is strongly recommended that these groups receive influenza vaccinations.
    • For children under the age of 9 years old, their first ever vaccination will require 2 injections, one at a time, with a period of a month between them.
    • Because the influenza virus undergoes mutations which are then spread each year, vaccinations are therefore altered to combat these mutations meaning that new vaccinations are required annually in Thailand, It is recommended that vaccinations be administered before rainy season, for example, during the months of April and May.
    • For families with an infant under the age of 6 months, who is therefore unable to receive the vaccine because of their young age, it is recommended that all other family members receive the vaccine instead.
  • Keep toys and things they use separate from others.
  • Take care of their general health to keep them feeling strong.

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Recommended Doctor

Passorn Punyahotra, M.D. Summary: Pediatrics Pediatric Infectious Diseases