H1N1 in Childhood – What you need to know

Every day, new diseases appear that usually bring great concern to all of us. One of these diseases that is very recent (its first pandemic occurred in 2009) is swine flu, known as H1N1 flu.

The H1N1 virus is the result of the genetic combination of the swine, avian and human virus and has a universal distribution, that is, it affects the entire world. It is also called influenza A, because the Influenza virus is divided into A, B and C, with the Influenza A H1N1 virus being responsible for the disease. This virus is highly contagious and transmitted from person to person by contaminated droplets or objects. In Brazil, cases tend to occur more in autumn and winter, especially from May to July, but other cases may occur sporadically in the other months of the year.


Children, especially those under two years of age, represent a group at risk for the disease, developing more serious infections that generally require hospitalization. These children are more exposed to complications such as pneumonia, for example, and can develop the severe form of the disease, which if left untreated soon has the risk of leading to death.

Some cases can be asymptomatic (the child is infected but does not develop the disease; however, it can transmit the virus) or oligosymptomatic (simulating a common cold). However, most children have high fever, cough, tiredness, nasal congestion and sore throat. Between 10 and 50% of children will experience tiredness that is rapidly progressive, with the possibility of using oxygen. Other symptoms include: chills, pain in the joints, bones, fatigue, poor appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In the beginning, the disease is similar to others that affect children, such as the common cold. Most individuals recover after seven days of illness, but there is a risk of developing bacterial otitis, sinusitis and pneumonia, which will prolong the treatment time. The diagnosis is made through laboratory tests (serological tests). Treatment is done through antiviral medications (Oseltamivir and Zanamivir).

The main measure to control the disease is vaccination, available in our country. This must be performed annually and is administered intramuscularly (injectable). Preferably, its application should occur before the months of the virus epidemic and its use has been approved for more than six months of life. People with a proven and important egg allergy should not receive the vaccine. And finally, it is important to remember that the flu vaccine does not give flu because it is composed of fragments of dead viruses. However, it is applied at a time of year when there is a greater circulation of viruses that are not present in the vaccine, so people get sicker. Other precautions we can take to avoid the flu are: always wash your hands, avoid crowding, drink more fluids and cover your mouth with your forearm when coughing.

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