How Dangerous is Swine Flu in Children? (page 2)

How Dangerous  is Swine Flu in Children?

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November 16, 2009
Updated on Nov 25, 2009

Levine, meanwhile, told the story of an 8-year-old in Texas whose parents recently called their doctor about flu-like symptoms. The child had no pre-existing conditions so the parents were told to monitor the conditions and only call back if the situation didn't improve. Two days later, the mother brought her son in and a flu test confirmed a case of Swine Flu. Four days later, the child died.

About two-thirds of flu deaths involve a child with pre-existing medical conditions like asthma, Levine said. "But I would argue that one-third of the cases involved healthy kids," she said. "This really just reinforces the need to vaccinate."

Bernstein and Levine emphasized the following points for parents to remember for the rest of flu season:

  • Get vaccinated. CDC officials say they are aware there are people worried about potential side effects, but maintain the vaccine is as safe as seasonal flu vaccines in the past. Levine confirmed that fear of the vaccine was an issue voiced by a number of her patients. "I just try to explain how important it is to get the vaccine."
  • Don't relax. If your child gets the flu, watch them closely, Levine and Bernstein said. "Monitor their breathing and how they are acting," Bernstein said. "You need to be quite cautious."
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. This is true for normally healthy children or those with asthma or other pre-existing conditions that put them in the high-risk category. Levine said if a parent has any concerns, call to update their child's condition. Don't assume the symptoms will pass, because that's happened in the past, or that the doctor has no open appointments. The flu makes kids more susceptible to bacterial co-infections, like pneumonia, so be sure to let your doctor know if your child's condition may be worsening.
  • Practice Swine Flu prevention tips. This includes covering up if you cough, washing your hands and watching closely for symptoms and staying home if you are sick and not returning to school until the fever has subsided - without the help of aspirin - for a full 24 hours. "You can't emphasize enough how important hand-washing is," Bernstein said.
  • No assumptions, please. Flu is unpredictable. The flu you've had in the past is a different strain from Swine Flu, so don't assume that similar symptoms or fever will result in the same result as another year's case of flu. Are healthy children with no pre-existing conditions in the clear, even if they come down with Swine? While most healthy kids will recover fairly quickly, there are no guarantees. "It's expected that the great majority of kids will do just fine," Levine said. "But, every once in a while, there's a case that throws you for a loop. So it's very hard to say."  

CDC Estimates of 2009 H1N1 Cases and Related Hospitalizations and Deaths from April-October 17, 2009, By Age Group

2009 H1N1

Mid-Level Range*

Estimated Range *




0-17 years

~8 million

~5 million to ~13 million

18-64 years

~12 million

~7 million to ~18 million

65 years and older

~2 million

~1 million to ~3 million

Cases Total

~22 million

~14 million to ~34 million




0-17 years


~23,000 to ~57,000

18-64 years


~34,000 to ~83,000

65 years and older


~6,000 to ~14,000

Hospitalizations Total


~63,000 to ~153,000




0-17 years


~300 to ~800

18-64 years


~1,900 to ~4,600

65 years and older


~300 to ~700

Deaths Total


~2,500 to ~6,100


Source: Centers for Disease Control

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