Could your child have swine flu?

Is that runny nose or cough a sign of swine flu? With more and more cases every day, we explain what to look for and what to do if you're concerned


What are the symptoms of swine flu?
Sudden fever
Dry cough
Sore throat
Aching muscles or limbs
Runny nose
Loss of appetite


However, these are also typical symptoms of usual seasonal flu.

If I think it is swine flu, what do I do next?

  • If your child is over the age of one and live in England, you should visit the National Pandemic Flu website or call the new helpline 0800 1513 100.
  • The website includes a symptoms checker. Once you’ve completed this checker, if it indicates your child does have swine flu you will then be prescribed the anti viral medication Tamiflu.
  • If you ring the helpline, you’ll be asked a series of questions. Again, if your answers indicate your child does have swine flu, you’ll be prescribed Tamiflu.
  • Once you have your prescription, you’ll be asked to collect the Tamiflu from an anti viral collection point. Avoid taking your ill child out – you may want to ask someone to collect the medication on your behalf.

This is only for families living in England. What should I do if I live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?

  • If you’re in Scotland, you should contact your GP or ring NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24.
  • If you’re in Wales, you should contact your GP or ring NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47.
  • If you’re in Northern Ireland, you should contact your GP or ring the Northern Ireland Swine Flu helpline on 0800 0514 142.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.

Can I get a swine flu test?
Initially doctors were carrying out tests in the surgery, but this has now changed. You’re now asked to do the swine flu checker on the new Pandemic Flu website.

We’re going away before Christmas. Can I get some anti viral medication just in case we get swine flu while we’re away?

  • The answer is no. People are being asked not to use the swine flu checker on the Pandemic Flu website or helpline unless they are actually ill or have an ill child.
  • Anti virals are only being offered to those who show symptoms of swine flu. They will not be given to completely healthy people simply to slow the spread of swine flu or to take away on holiday.
  • They will be only be used to prevent the spread on the advice of a doctor in high-risk groups. These high-risk groups include children under five and pregnant women.

What do the anti virals do?
Anti virals don’t cure swine flu but they do help to relieve some of the symptoms and reduce the risk of serious complications, such as pneumonia. However, Tamiflu has to be taken within 48 hours of symptoms appearing to have any useful effect.

The two anti virals being used in this country to treat swine flu are oseltamavir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). There are currently enough stocks of this medication to treat half the population. Further Tamiflu is on order and when that arrives, there should be enough to treat 80% of people in the UK.

Relenza comes as an inhaler (rather than pills) and is recommended for use by pregnant women.

Can babies and children take anti virals?
Yes, but only if your doctor prescribes them. A smaller dose of Tamiflu is safe for children over one, and Relenza is suitable for children five and above.

What about babies under one?
Neither Tamiflu or Relenza are licensed for use by babies under one. However, with the current pandemic, the European Medicines Agency has advised that infants under one may be treated with Tamiflu under controlled circumstances.

Will my child suffer side-effects if he takes anti virals?
Tamiflu can cause nausea in a small number of cases, although this side-effect lessens over the course of treatment. You should make sure he takes Tamiflu with or immediately after food, and drinks plenty of water.

Is my toddler more likely to be affected by swine flu than my older children?
Children under 5 are considered to be in the high risk group. Pregnant women are also in the high risk group – learn more about pregnancy and swine flu.

How long is the illness likely to last?
The length of time you or your child will be ill depends on individual people but most of the cases in the UK have been relatively mild, with people starting to get better within a week.

What if I or my child have been in contact with someone with swine flu?
Watch out for any of the symptoms above, and check the Pandemic flu website or contact the numbers above.

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 you’ve 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 child go to school or nursery if he’s been in contact with someone with the illness?
The NHS recommends that it’s fine to continue to send your child to school or nursery, but to watch carefully for any symptoms. If illness does develop then you should keep him at home.

Can I get my child 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.


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