H1N1 in Children (Swine Flu)

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H1N1 flu (originally called swine flu) is a respiratory infection that can cause mild to severe symptoms. If you think that your child may have this virus, call your doctor.

H1N1 Causes

 Flu is usually spread by:

  • Breathing in droplets after an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • Touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth 

The virus can survive on surfaces and infect a person for several hours after being exposed to the surface.

Who is More at Risk  

The main risk factor for getting H1N1 flu is contact with an infected person. Children younger than two years of age and children with chronic health conditions may be at greater risk for a severe form of flu. People younger than 25 years old are more likely to be affected by the virus. Older people may have developed immunity against the virus.

There is also a vaccine available for H1N1 and seasonal flu.

Symptoms of H1N1 in Children 

H1N1 in children may cause:

  • Fever and chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Severe fatigue
  • Headache
  • Runny nose, nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting) 

Call your doctor if both of the following apply to your child:

  • Has a fever of 100°F or higher and any of the following:
    • Stuffy nose 
    • Runny nose 
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
  • Has been exposed to H1N1 flu by:
    • Being within 6 feet of someone known or suspected to have H1N1 flu
    • Living, or having traveled to a place where there have been confirmed cases of H1N1 flu

If H1N1 flu becomes severe, it can cause pneumonia. Contact your child’s doctor if symptoms worsen.

Emergency Warning Signs

Emergency warning signs in children include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Blue or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe vomiting or vomiting that does not stop
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Being too irritable to be held
  • Little or no desire to play or interact
  • Lack of alertness
  • Flu-like symptoms get better then come back with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA Health Children's

Your child’s doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. In some cases, your doctor may take samples from your child’s nose or throat to confirm the diagnosis.

Talk with your doctor before giving your child any over-the-counter medications. Avoid giving your child aspirin. It can cause serious complications in children with certain infections.

Antiviral Medications

Most people with the flu do not need antiviral medications. If your child has the flu, check with your doctor to see if they need antiviral medication. Antiviral medications do not cure the flu. They may help relieve symptoms and shorten the time that your child is sick. They must be taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. If you give your child antivirals, closely monitor them for signs of unusual behavior.