Could your baby have swine flu?

Is your little one hot, sweaty and extra grizzly? Here's what you need to know about swine flu and what to do next

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Updated 25/9/09

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My baby has a runny nose. Could she have swine flu?
It’s possible, so look out for other symptoms of swine flu:
Fever – this is the main symptom to watch for (ie, a temperature of 38C (100.4F)
Dry cough
Sore throat
Diarrhoea
Headache
Chills
Tiredness
Aching muscles or limbs
Runny nose
Sneezing
Loss of appetite

If I think my baby does have swine flu, what do I do?

  • Stay at home and call your GP immediately and talk through your baby’s symptoms. Don’t use the new National Swine Flu website unless your child is over one – instead pick up the phone and talk to your doctor.
  • GPs are asking you not to go into surgeries with infected children or adults as this could increase the spread of infection, particularly to others who are ill.
  • If your GP confirms swine flu by telephone, he or she may give you a voucher reference number entitling you to anti viral medication.
  • Again, avoid visiting public places. Instead, give this reference number to a healthy friend or relative and ask them to pick up the anti virals for you from a designated local collection centre.

I thought I couldn’t give my baby anti virals?
Neither Tamiflu or Relenza (the current anti viral medicines being used against swine flu) are licensed for use by babies under one. However, with the current pandemic, the European Medicines Agency has studied all the evidence and decided that babies under one can be given Tamiflu if:
the appropriate dosage to treat children aged under one is 2-3mg/kg twice daily for five days

  • babies are preferably treated under medical supervision
  • dilution of the capsule content can be used to prepare the dos
  • Your doctor will show you exactly what to do with the medicine.

Can I ask my doctor to give my baby a swine flu test?
Previously doctors were carrying out tests in the surgery, but this has now changed, and your doctor is likely to try to diagnose your baby over the phone by assessing the symptoms.

Can I give my baby Tamiflu to prevent her getting swine flu?
It’s currently not clear whether the of benefit of protecting against swine flu is worth the risks of using Tamiflu for babies who are not suffering from flu symptoms. A decision on whether this is recommended should be taken by a paediatrician.

The recommended course for prevention in the under-ones is 2mg/kg of Tamiflu once a day for 10 days (but should not exceed 10 days).

The general advice to protect your baby against getting swine flu tis to make sure you wash her hands regularly and frequently clean surfaces, toys and equipment.

Do I need to stop breastfeeding if I’m taking anti virals for myself?
No, don’t stop. You should continue breastfeeding while receiving anti viral treatment, as there’s no evidence of any harm. Only very small and insignificant levels of anti viral drugs find their way into breast milk. In fact, even if you’re feeling ill with swine flu, the recommendation is to keep breastfeeding and even increase feeding frequency. If you feel too ill to feed, then expressing milk may still be possible.

I think my baby has been in contact with someone who has swine flu – what should I do?

Watch out for the tell-tale symptoms, such as a fever. If you suspect your baby may be showing signs, ring your doctor straight away.

How long is the incubation time?
The Health Protection Agency states that the incubation time (the period between infection and appearance of symptoms) for swine flu is up to seven days, but most likely to be between two and five days. This means that if you think your baby has come into contact with the swine flu virus, keep a look out over the next seven days for symptoms. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, so remain vigilant even after this time.

Should my baby continue to go to nursery if she’s been in contact with someone with the illness?
The NHS recommends that it’s fine to continue to send your baby to nursery, but to watch carefully for any symptoms. If illness does develop then you should keep her at home.

Should my baby go to nursery if she’s got signs of a cold?
It’s better if you keep your baby at home and watch for other symptoms, such as a fever. You can then return your baby to nursery when she’s fully recovered.

Can my baby get swine flu more than once?
Unfortunately it is possible, because the virus can change (mutate). If your becomes infected with the swine flu virus, her body produces antibodies against it, which will recognise and fight off the virus if the body meets it again. However, if the virus changes, her immune system may not recognise this different strain and she become ill again, although she will hopefully have some ‘cross protection’ due to encountering a similar virus previously.

Can my baby take Tamiflu to prevent her getting swine flu?

The balance of benefit and risk for using Tamiflu for the prevention of swine flu in babies who are not suffering from flu symptoms is not clear. A decision on whether this is recommended should be taken by an expert in the care of young children. The recommended course for prevention in the under-ones is 2mg/kg once a day for 10 days (but should not exceed 10 days).

The first line of protection for babies aged under one is making sure you’re washing your hands and hers frequently, and regularly cleaning and wiping down surfaces, toys and equipment with antibacterial cleaner.

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Can I get my baby vaccinated against swine flu?
If your child is aged between 6 months and 5-years-old, they can be vaccinated against swine flu from December. Parents will receive a letter from their GP, and the Department of Health have strongly advised everyone who is offered the vaccine to accept it, as children under five are at a higher risk of contracting swine flu than other age categories. Enough vaccine has been ordered to protect the whole population, but initially there will only be limited supplies and the high risk will be inoculated first, which now includes young children. Some experts suggest that vaccination is probably unnecessary for babies under six months who have some birth immunity.

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