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Health & Medicine

Friday, 28 August 2009 11:53


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{pp}The latest statistics regarding the H1N1 virus, dubbed “swine flu”, suggests that pregnant mothers and young children are particularly susceptible to the illness.

“Pregnancy is referred to as an immunosuppressive condition during which the immune system is naturally suppressed to accommodate a foreign body, the baby, in the womb,” explains Nellie Koen, National Coordinator of Netcare’s Stork’s Nest Baby Clinics. “H1N1 is always associated with an abnormally high fever,” continues Koen. “A temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above combined with at least two flu symptoms including coughing, aches and pains, a headache, runny nose and sore throat may be indicative of H1N1 infection.”

Netcare Limited will be offering parents valuable advice regarding the prevention, identification and treatment of H1N1 on their stand at The Baby Expo Durban. “Swine flu is a concern among pregnant mothers and young children,” says Exhibition Director, Projeni Pather. “Fortunately, with the correct preventative measures, infection can be avoided.” To reduce the chance of H1N1 infection, ensure that all members of the household wash their hands regularly with soap and water. Clean all common-area surfaces (e.g. the telephone, dining room table, remote controls, etc.) regularly with soap and water.

Always carry disposable tissues so that your mouth and nose can be covered when sneezing or coughing, and don’t use reusable handkerchiefs. Use tissues once and throw away, preferably flushed down the toilet. Use liquid or waterless hand cleaners, available at most pharmacies, to clean your hands after blowing your nose if water is not close at hand. Koen explains, “It is a good idea to consult with a General Practitioner in the event of illness so that symptoms can be correctly treated and to exclude H1N1 as a diagnosis.” As it is not advisable to go to work if swine flu is suspected, consulting a doctor is necessary for the correct sick leave forms. Laboratory testing for H1N1 is not recommended as it provides little advantage in the clinical management of the virus and is costly to the individual and / or Medical Aid. Swine flu is a relatively short-lived illness of between one and five days.

A course of antiviral treatment like Tamiflu, which is safe for pregnant mothers, lasts for five days. Return to work or school is possible once symptoms have subsided and an overall feeling of wellness improves. The virus can still be shed for seven days however, so anyone infected with H1N1 should take care to avoid transmission by covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, hand washing and disposal of used tissues. “If a child is diagnosed with H1N1, keep them at home, allow plenty of rest and treat him or her with plenty of fluids including orange juice to boost vitamin C levels,” says Koen. “Treat flu symptoms with medication to reduce the temperature, as advised by a doctor or paediatrician. “If there is a new baby in the house, an infected older sibling may have to be restricted from physical contact with the new baby until his or her symptoms have disappeared.”

Breastfeeding a baby while on antiviral medication is perfectly safe – the baby will get the benefit of the antiviral drugs via the breast milk. Infants and small children can be treated with antiviral drugs by a paediatrician. “Expectant moms are advised to take extra precautions with hygiene, eat a healthy well balanced diet and avoid unnecessary travel, particularly by bus, train or aeroplane,” concludes Koen. “Remember that ‘ordinary’ seasonal flu can also make us quite ill, so don’t forget the benefits of a flu vaccine which is effective and safe to use from the age of six months.”

Netcare will be ensuring that little visitors to The Baby Expo Durban have their vaccinations up to date, offering a dedicated clinic at the show for all parents that present their children’s Road to Health immunisation card. With professional nurses on-site to assist with all child-care queries including any pertinent questions you might have about swine flu, the Netcare Stork’s Nest Baby Clinic is an exclusive feature of The Baby Expo Durban.

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Published in Health and Medicine

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