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Researchers from California claim that prompt treatment with antiviral drugs may improve the chances of survival for children who are critically ill with flu.
The new study, published in Pediatrics, compares the outcomes of treatment for 784 children aged under 18 who were hospitalized in intensive care units in California with confirmed cases of flu between April 3, 2009, and September 30, 2012.
The researchers found that children treated with neuraminidase inhibitors (NAI) drugs - a type of antiviral medication - within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms were less likely to die.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu is a real threat to younger kids, with 20,000 children under the age of 5 being hospitalized because of it each year.
And while they point out that "flu season" timings vary from year to year, they are most likely to peak in January or February in the US, though they may begin as early as October and continue as late as May.
The study states that of the NAI-treated patients, 6% (38 of 653) died, compared with 8% (11 of 131) of children who were not treated.
Further analysis showed that NAI treatment also improved survival rates among children who needed mechanical ventilation.
And it is not just kids with underlying health problems who are at risk. Severe infection can cause a rapid decline in previously healthy children.
The study shows that such a decrease in treatment may be putting "critically ill children at an increased risk of death."
The CDC advocates flu vaccinations as the "first and best step in preventing influenza."
But for those who are seriously ill or who are at high risk of complications, the CDC recommends antiviral drugs as a second line of defense, even among people who have been vaccinated.
However, Medical News Today reported earlier this year that there is no benefit in increasing dosages for seriously ill flu patients.
The US Department of Health & Human Services recommends that those are concerned about a child or infant suffering symptoms should speak to their health care provider, particularly if the child is younger than 5 or has any underlying health issues.
The organization also suggests seeking emergency medical attention if a child experiences any of the following symptoms:
Written by Belinda Weber
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Neuraminidase Inhibitors for Critically Ill Children With Influenza, Janice K. Louie, Samuel Yang, Michael C. Samuel, Timothy M. Uyeki, and Robert Schechter, Pediatrics, 25 November 2013. Abstract.
Visit our Flu / Cold / SARS category page for the latest news on this subject.
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11 Mar. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269310>
Weber, B. (2013, November 25). "Treating flu with antiviral drugs." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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