Get the lowdown on what the real risk of swine flu is to your little one and what precautions you can take.
Though you might have heard no end of news and theories about the risk of swine flu recently, it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff and find out exactly what the risks are to you and your baby.
Though babies and children under 5 are likely to be more vulnerable to the flu than some other age groups, it's important not to panic over every cough and sniffle. Following a few simple guidelines and precautions can reduce your child's risk and make you feel more in control of the situation.
What are the symptoms my baby might show?
The symptoms generally associated with swine flu are the same as normal seasonal flu, such as a temperature, runny nose, and a sore throat. If your baby seems hot make sure to check his or her temperature, and if it's 38C or above then you should contact your GP right away. Other symptoms to watch out for include:
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden fever
These are the most common symptoms of swine flu, though it's important to remember that just because your baby has one or more of these symptoms it doesn't necessarily mean he or she is unwell.
What should I do if baby displays these symptoms?
If your baby has a temperature or displays 2 or more of these symptoms, it's important to call your doctor for advice. He or she will ask you to describe your child's symptoms and may provide a diagnosis over the phone, or ask you to bring baby in for a check-up.
If your doctor does diagnose your baby with swine flu, it's important not to panic and to treat baby in the same way as if they had come down with seasonal flu. This means keeping him or her indoors and making sure he or she is well hydrated with water or milk, and getting plenty of rest.
Your doctor may prescribe baby with anti-viral drugs, which you may have to ask a friend to pick up for you. Generally however these won't be prescribed in most cases where symptoms of swine flu are mild.
The NHS website
provides plenty of information on swine flu and is a good place to look if you are concerned. They do state however that most children who contract swine flu will make a full recovery which may help to allay any concerns that you have.
How can I prevent my baby catching swine flu?
Just as with other kinds of flu, there are some precautions you can take which will reduce the risk to your baby.
- Make sure you always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze.
- If your baby is breastfeeding, make sure he or she is getting the milk needed every day.
- Otherwise make sure your child has a healthy diet and plenty of fluids.
- Wash your own and your baby's hands often to avoid any germs spreading.
- As much as possible without restricting your usual day-to-day activities, try to avoid large crowds of people when you are with baby, as this will minimise the risk of coming into contact with the bug.
By taking sensible precautions as you normally would to prevent your baby catching a cold or seasonal flu, you and your baby are likely to remain healthy and not come into contact with swine flu.
However it is important if you notice symptoms of flu to notify your doctor, who will be able to either provide a diagnosis or reassure you that your baby is fine.
You can also call NHS Direct if you have concerns and queries on 0845 4647.