Patient Care

Influenza A - H1N1 (Children)

What is Influenza in Children?

​Influenza, known as the common flu, is a highly contagious viral infection that frequently causes infection of the nose, throat and lungs. It may also involve many other body systems and occasionally cause severe illness especially in the young and elderly.

Complicated Influenza illness may occur in certain groups of children, namely the very young, those with asthma, underlying heart or neurological problems, or weakened immune systems. In such cases, the virus can cause complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the brain or heart, worsening of any long-term health problem or affect almost any organ in the body, resulting in  serious illness or even death.

Influenza is caused by a virus called the Influenza virus. It is spread by tiny droplets carried in the air when people who are unwell with the Influenza infection cough, sneeze or talk. They may be contagious up to one day before they develop any symptoms. The virus can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs and telephones.

The Influenza virus has several strains and the ability to mutate rapidly. This causes seasonal changes in the prevalent strain of Influenza infection. In most temperate countries, occurrence of Influenza peaks once a year during winter. In Singapore, Influenza occurs all year round with 2 peak flu seasons, one between December and February (during the Northern Hemisphere winter) and the other between May and July (during the Southern Hemisphere winter).

Occasionally, there are Influenza pandemics of certain strains which cause more severe diseases all over the world. Some examples include the avian flu, as also known as Influenza A (H5N1), in 1997 and swine flu, also known as Influenza A (H1N1), in 2009.

What are the signs & symptoms of Influenza in Children?

The symptoms of Influenza can vary in severity from mild to severe.

Common symptoms are:

  • High fever that lasts for 3 to 7 days
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Cough
  • Tiredness
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting

These symptoms are similar to infections caused by many other respiratory viruses. They are self-limiting and generally do not require any treatment.

What are the treatment options for Influenza in Children?

If your child has Influenza, care should be focused on providing adequate hydration, and being alert to signs that your child may have serious Influenza. Rest and plenty of oral fluids are important for speedy recovery. If there are no complications, your child should recover in 1 to 2 weeks.

Symptomatic treatment for fever, sore throat, runny nose, and cough may help to alleviate discomfort. However, these generally do not change the course of or recovery from the illness.

High risk groups comprising a small subset of children may benefit from antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir if they are diagnosed early in the course of Influenza. To be effective in reducing the severity and duration of Influenza, these need to be started within the first 2 days of Illness. Their benefit in otherwise healthy children is limited. Your doctor will decide if your child will benefit from taking such medications.

Caring for children with Influenza?

It is recommended for your child to be immunised with the Influenza vaccine every year once he or she is 6 months old.

The Influenza vaccine contains 3 to 4 Influenza viruses (2 Influenza A and 1 or 2 Influenza B viruses) that are most common for the season.

You and your child should practise good personal hygiene by:

  • Washing hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water, especially before touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Using an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
  • Not sharing cups or eating utensils.
  • Covering the mouth and nose with tissue whenever you or your child needs to cough or sneeze.
  • Staying at home and away from school or crowded places when sick.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people or someone who has symptoms of flu.

If your child falls sick with flu-like symptoms, keep him or her at home, limit contact with others ,and bring him or her to the doctor. Your doctor will decide if testing or treatment is needed.

Take your child to the Children’s Emergency if they display the following:
  • Bring your child to the Children's Emergency immediately if he or she develops any of these symptoms:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Decreased or no movement
  • Lethargy
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