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Influenza remains a health crisis in the United States, causing more than 50 death-related cases in children. When the virus infects a child, the standard prescription is to stay at home and rest, drink plenty of fluids, and maintain control over the fever. But the current influenza strain is deadly that parents must learn how to spot the symptoms of the infection in their kids before things get any worse.
“Every once in a while, even among healthy children, this influenza strain and others can make a person very, very sick, really fast. It’s deceptive,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Parents should closely monitor their children aged under five, particularly babies and toddlers under two, for any symptoms. Because very young children often suffer from dehydration when battling influenza, which can lead to low blood pressure, convulsions, and heart failure. In most cases, healthy children can fight off the infection. However, some children may develop life-threatening complications.
Babies inflicted with influenza are at risk of serious health complications. About 20,000 children aged below five years old are hospitalized every year because of pneumonia. A baby who has contracted the flu virus will exhibit obvious symptoms, such as:
- Fever, but sometimes, fever does not present itself, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Body shakes and chills.
- A sore throat and a dry, hacking cough.
- A runny and stuffed nose.
- Lack of energy or fatigue.
- Vomiting and diarrhea, but sometimes, these may not be present.
These symptoms may also be exhibited by the common cold, which is why parents must know the difference between the two illnesses. The most dominant symptom of the common cold is the runny or stuffy nose, while its least symptom is running a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit. In influenza, the most prominent symptom is the onset of fever and severe body aches. If your child has flu, they will look achier, sicker, and more miserable than someone who has a common cold.
For babies under one year, parents must be vigilant when it comes to fever and cough symptoms to ensure the safety of the child. If the baby who is three months old has a temperature of 100.4 degrees, seek a doctor immediately. It normally indicates a serious infection or an underlying disorder. If the fever keeps on rising above 104 degrees and has lasted for more than 24 hours, seek a doctor as well. If a cough does not go away after a week, seek a doctor too.
Another rule parents must know about their sick baby is that other symptoms resemble the adult influenza, but with key differences:
- The presence of a high-grade fever without an apparent explanation.
- The sudden physical activity or abnormal and violent movement of a limb or the body or convulsion.
- The appearance of red eyes and feeling of pain in the ears.
- Though uncommon, muscle inflammation can also occur that is often detected as severe back or leg pain.
“The trick with the flu is that it happens very quickly. You have to be really paying attention. Things can progress within 48 hours or so,” said Dr. Flor M. Munoz, an associate professor of pediatrics and infectious disease at Baylor College of Medicine.
According to the CDC, there are emergency warning signs of influenza that include fast or troubled breathing, bluish color of the skin, inability to drink enough fluids, inability to wake up or a lack of interaction, intense irritability when held, and fever with a rash. Other signs of the disease include lack of tears when crying, inability to eat, and reduced number of wet diapers than usual.
“For a baby under one, there’s a lower threshold to see the doctor. I would be willing to wait a little longer on a 12-year-old who can tell me how he feels, but for a baby that age, it’s hard for a parent to know what’s going on. You have to watch them very carefully and be attuned to changes,” stated the CDC.
It is possible that the list of symptoms mentioned earlier may confuse parents if they should bring their kids to the hospital. But Dr. Schaffner said that worries of parents should be not underestimated and the physician must take a closer look. Parents can trust their instincts when suspecting an illness. It does not matter if the child has a mild or severe disorder, it is better to have them checked for any health issues as a preventive measure.
Children with an underlying medical condition, such asthma, diabetes, cerebral palsy, heart conditions or seizures have a higher risk of developing influenza-related health complications. The viral infection can also aggravate the symptoms of these pre-existing medical conditions.
[메디컬리포트=Ralph Chen 기자]