You asked

I’m worried about my child getting swine flu. What should I look out for?

Swine flu was first discovered in the US in 2009. It’s a new strain of flu, which spreads in the same way as ordinary flu does – by contact with infected saliva or mucus. Since it was first discovered, its status has been elevated to global pandemic, which means that it’s spreading around the world, and fast.

The symptoms of swine flu are very similar to ordinary flu. Infected adults and children will have most of the usual symptoms of flu: chills, fever, an achy body, headaches, sore throat, stuffy nose, and occasionally an upset stomach.

If your child has any combination of these symptoms, and in particular, a high fever, then it’s best to refer to your doctor – even if it is not swine flu, there’s a good chance it’s another potentially serious disease. If your doctor suspects that it may be swine flu, your child will need a laboratory test to confirm it. For the most part, children, and adults, who contract swine flu, can be treated as any other flu patient – lots of bed rest and fluids. If, however, your child is under five, and or has another medical condition, such as asthma, neurological problems, or diabetes, you should seek further medical attention. If your child shows signs of worsening – a very high fever, lethargy or dehydration, discolouring or the skin or shallow, fast breathing, you should also seek immediate medical attention.

Make sure your children are vaccinated against swine flu, and that they wash their hands regularly. Keep their hands away from their nose and mouth, and if you or someone you know has the flu, wipe down surfaces in your home with a disinfectant spray. Vaccines for swine flu are available in injectible and nasal spray form, and you should make sure that everyone in your household is vaccinated, to ensure that no one gets sick.

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