2009 H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu) and Children

2009 H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu) and Children

The 2009 H1N1 influenza is a type of flu. Like any flu, it mainly affects the lungs. It is caused by the influenza A (H1N1) virus, a flu virus that was discovered in 2009. The 2009 H1N1 flu is sometimes called swine flu because scientists originally thought the virus came from pigs (swine). But it is now known that this is not the case and that the germ is a new virus. This sheet answers some questions you may have about 2009 H1N1 flu.

How Does 2009 H1N1 Flu Spread?

The 2009 H1N1 flu virus can spread easily among children or adults the same way the regular flu spreads—through the air in droplets when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, laughs, or talks. A child or adult can also become infected after touching a contaminated surface and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Note: 2009 H1N1 flu is not caused by eating pork or pork products. Eating pork or pork products that have been properly handled and cooked is safe.

What Are the Symptoms of 2009 H1N1 Flu?

2009 H1N1 flu symptoms are about the same as regular flu symptoms. A child may have:

  • Fever, usually higher than 100°F, and chills

  • Headache

  • Body and muscle aches

  • Sore throat

  • Dry cough

  • Tiredness and weakness

  • In some cases, diarrhea, or vomiting

Call the child’s healthcare provider for advice if any of the above symptoms are severe. If 2009 H1N1 flu is in your area, the healthcare provider may have the child tested.

How Is 2009 H1N1 Flu Treated?

If 2009 H1N1 flu is in your area and the child’s symptoms are severe, the child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medications called antivirals. These must be taken within 2 days of when the child’s symptoms started. Be sure to give ALL of the medication as prescribed until it is gone, even if your child feels better. If the child’s symptoms are mild or it has been more than 2 days since the symptoms started, the doctor will likely not prescribe antiviral medications. Instead, the comfort measures listed below are used. Note that antibiotics are NOT helpful against influenza.

Easing Your Child’s Symptoms

  • Give your child plenty of fluids such as water, juice, and warm soup to prevent dehydration.

  • Have your child sleep and rest quietly as much as possible.

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider whether it is okay to give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or other medications for fever and pain. Give these medications to your child as directed. Do not give aspirin to any child under age 18 who is ill with a fever. It can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome, which can lead to liver damage.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Symptoms that get better, then return with a fever and worse cough

  • Fever over 100°F

  • Fever with a rash

  • Trouble breathing or fast breathing

  • Blue skin or lips

  • Extreme sleepiness or not interacting

  • Refusal to feed or drink fluids

  • Severe or repeated vomiting or inability to keep fluids down

  • In infants, not wanting to be held

Taking Steps to Protect Yourself and Others

When caring for a child with influenza, take these steps to help keep the illness from spreading to yourself or others:

  • Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible. Instruct family members to do the same.

  • If soap and water isn’t available, hands can be cleaned with an alcohol-based hand gel containing at least 60 percent alcohol.

  • Teach your child to wash his or her hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing.

  • Have your child cough or sneeze into a tissue. Then throw the tissue away and wash your hands. Teach an older child who doesn’t have a tissue to cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow.

  • Keep your child home for at least 24 hours after he or she no longer has a fever or fever symptoms (such as chills). Be sure that the fever isn’t being hidden by fever-reducing medications (such as Tylenol or Advil).

  • Don’t allow your child to share food, utensils, drinking glasses, or a toothbrush with others.

  • Ask your doctor whether you or others in your household should receive antiviral medication to help avoid infection.

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