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Schools, parents and pregnant women

Schools are open as normal, so continue to send your children to school. If you are pregnant and think you may have swine flu, or believe your child may have swine flu, call your GP.

Schools

There have been cases of swine flu in your child's school (or childcare) but it has remained open. Should you send your child in?

While schools and childcare providers remain open, parents are strongly advised to continue to send their children in - unless they have any symptoms of flu. Parents will be advised if their child's school or childcare is to close and what to do then.

Your child has a history of medical problems. Is it safe for them to go to school while there have been cases of swine flu there? And are there other precautions that you should take?

Your child should continue to attend school or setting unless they have any flu-like symptoms. If they display any symptoms you should keep them at home and, given their other medical conditions, you should contact your GP for advice and treatment as soon as possible.

Is it better for children to catch swine flu now in order to build up their resistance to stronger strains in the future?

No. We are still learning about this strain of swine flu and who is most at risk of complications. The Health Protection Agency strongly advises people to avoid intentionally infecting themselves, or their children, with the virus, for their own safety and the safety of any vulnerable people they may unintentionally infect.

Even with mild flu, complications can occur, leading to more serious illness. With this in mind, it would be wrong not to take all necessary precautions against swine flu and limit its spread.

What could working parents do if their child's school was closed for an extended period? Would they have to stay off work?

As closures would present a challenge for working parents, schools will only be closed in exceptional circumstances.

In the case of closure, parents would have to make other arrangements for looking after their children. Some might be able to work from home, work flexible or shorter hours, or make informal childcare arrangements with a relative or friend.

Could employers with large numbers of parent workers set up their own childcare?

There are no current plans to close group childcare settings en masse. If this were to happen, it would also apply to any newly established nursery set up by an employer as much as to any other establishment, so it would not be helpful for employers to do this.

Also, any such new facility would have to be registered with Ofsted, which could not be completed at very short notice; they would have to check that relevant safety, welfare and other requirements are met before confirming registration.

Parents

Advice for parents on what to do if they or their children have swine flu.

Can you breastfeed if you're taking antivirals?

Yes. It is safe for you to take Tamiflu or Relenza while you are breastfeeding your baby. If you or your baby are too ill to breastfeed, use expressed milk if you can.

How do you tell if your child has swine flu?

As swine flu spreads, it is important to be able to recognise its symptoms and know what to do if you think that you or your family might have it.

One thing you can do right now is to make sure you have a thermometer to take your child’s temperature. If they have a temperature of 38° C or above and they have any two of the following symptoms, then you should call your GP straight away. The symptoms are:

  • tiredness
  • headache
  • runny nose and sneezing
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • aching muscles, limb and joint pain

If your child is less than one year old and you think they might have swine flu, call your GP immediately.

If your child has swine flu

If your GP confirms that your child has swine flu, they should stay at home and you should treat their symptoms like any other cold or flu. Make sure they drink plenty of liquids, get lots of rest and take paracetamol to help control their temperature. 

Your GP will tell you whether your child should also take antiviral drugs. Antivirals, such as Tamiflu, shorten the symptoms by about a day and can reduce the risk of complications. 

However, they can also have side effects. If your child’s swine flu symptoms are mild, you may not wish to give them antivirals. Your GP can advise you on this.

Getting antiviral drugs for your child

If you decide that your child should take antivirals, your GP will give you an authorisation code. Then ask a ‘flu friend’ – a friend or relative who does not have swine flu – to take this code to one of your local antiviral collection points to pick up their antivirals. Your GP will tell you where these are.

Should young children be treated with Tamiflu?

The review that said children should not be treated with Tamiflu was based on seasonal flu and not swine flu.

The authors admitted that it is uncertain how much the findings of that review apply to swine flu. After all, swine flu behaves differently to seasonal flu, and past pandemics have hit younger people hardest.

All people suffering from swine flu, including young children, will continue to be offered antivirals.

Children and vaccination

So far, swine flu has mostly affected people in the at-risk groups above and children. However, while people in at-risk groups would benefit from the vaccine at an early opportunity, most children make a full recovery.

As a result, health experts do not believe that children, other than those in at-risk groups, need to be given priority for the swine flu vaccine.

Pregnant women

While most pregnant women with swine flu will only have mild symptoms, there is a higher risk of developing complications. If you are pregnant and think you may have swine flu, call your GP.

Pregnant women with swine flu may be given an antiviral drug called Relenza. Relenza is taken through an inhaler rather than a tablet. This means it builds up in your throat and lungs but not in your blood or placenta and should not affect your baby.

Pregnant women are also being given priority for the swine flu vaccine.

For more information, download the 'swine flu and pregnancy' information leaflet.

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