How to Care for a Child With Swine Flu
Swine Flu can be worse than a regular flu and may need extra care and attention.
It is very important that you work with your child's pediatrician to insure the best treatment plan for your individual child.
When my two children (ages 8 and 6 at the time) came down with Swine Flu within a day of each other, it was a long and bumpy ride.
Here is how we got through the Swine Flu, what I did right and what I might do differently next time.
The first sign that my children had swine flu was a fever and lethargy.
Since my kids are always very active, I knew that this was a bad sign.
A trip to the pediatrician confirmed that it was the flu. But since this was during the height of the Swine Flu epidemic, we were unable to get confirmation that it was the H1N1 virus.
The doctor prescribed Tamiflu for each of the kids but my husband and I had already decided not to take Tamiflu because of our concerns about the side effects in children.
Side Effects of Tamiflu
In our research, we found that Tamiflu caused nausea and nightmares in children.
There was also some concern about lingering effects of hyper-activity.
Tamiflu was also shown to only reduce the flu symptoms by a day.
We decided that the risks of the anti-viral drug outweighed the benefits.
Current studies seem to confirm that Tamiflu's benefits rarely outweigh the side effect risks.
Fevers and the Flu
The first priority with the Swine Flu was keeping their fevers down.
The Swine Flu produced a very high fever, pushing up to 103 or 104 degrees regularly.
I asked my doctor about an alternating schedule of Advil and Tylenol and he approved.
Because their fevers were so high, we alternated with a different fever reducer every three hours.
I set my alarm to get up every three hours, round the clock, to give them fever reducer. The reason we did this is that the fever seemed to be on the edge of getting out of hand and requiring hospitalization, something that we wanted to try to avoid.
My doctor noted that Tylenol and Advil are processed by different parts of the body.
A typical daily schedule might look like this.
Alternating Advil and Tylenol Every Three Hours
After about a week I was able to cut the schedule back to every four hours.
Then we cut back every six hours.
The important component here was to manage the fever and the pain associated with the flu.
Keeping Fluids Available
Another important part of taking care of any child with the flu is keeping fluids in them.
Fluids will help flush the virus out of the body and keep fevers down.
I bought a wide array of fluids to try to tempt my children to drink including soft drinks and juices.
Another trick is to give them frozen juice pops or popsicles.
This will reduce the fever and get some fluids into their body.
Croup Cough and Flu
My youngest child developed a croup cough a few days into the flu.
The croup cough signature is a cough that sounds like a seal barking.
His croup cough was mild enough that we were able to treat him at home by taking him into the bathroom and steaming it up.
We then set up a Vick's Vapor Steam device in his room so that he would get the moist air, which helped to open his airways.
According to Jake Schulke of The Guardian, croup can be a deadly and dangerous complication of the flu.
If your child is unable to talk or having trouble breathing, he or she should be seen by a doctor immediately. They may need to be hospitalized.
Pneumonia and Flu
One of the other complications that can occur with the flu is pneumonia.
One of the best indications that your child may be developing pneumonia is if they suddenly start feeling worse well into the illness.
My oldest developed the early stages of pneumonia about a week into the flu.
Both he and his brother were feeling a bit better but then his fever returned and he was feeling lethargic again. This is almost always the sign of some kind of secondary infection.
A trip to his pediatrician confirmed a bit of fluid in his lungs and he was started on some antibiotics.
Within a day he was fever-free and back to recovering.
Both children recovered from the Swine Flu after about ten days with lingering tiredness for a couple of more weeks.
However, my oldest developed mild asthma as a result of the flu, most likely from minor lung scarring that sometimes happens with the flu.
The asthma mostly flares up when he is sick or if it is very cold outside.
It is a lasting reminder of the flu and seriousness of this virus.
Get Your Flu Shot
Because the flu is so common, many forget that it can also be deadly.
At the time my children were infected with the H1N1 virus, there was no vaccination for this type of flu.
Today the H1N1 is included in the yearly flu shot.
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot in the fall, before flu season starts.
Even if the flu shot isn't an exact match, studies have proven that the flu shot can still reduce the length and severity of the flu.
We get our flu shot every year and would have been glad to get the Swine Flu shot had it been available.
Prevention is the best way to avoid this dangerous illness.
Do you and your family get the flu shot ever year?
References and Further Reading
- Croup: A deadly flu complication - National First Aid and Safety | Examiner.com
Pediatric Airway National Library of Medicine Croup is a very common illness in children, primarily during the winter months, and can result in death.
- Half of children taking Tamiflu have side-effects | Society | guardian.co.uk
Nausea, insomnia and nightmares reported after taking antiviral drug for swine flu, study finds
- Tamiflu: Myth and Misconception - Shannon Brownlee & Jeanne Lenzer - The Atlantic
The only people helped by the proven-to-be-ineffective drug are its manufacturers.