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Swine Flu – Our Family's Experience

673918_95093533It started with a sore throat, a “burning hot” sore throat, my daughter called it.  That’s when I knew we were probably in trouble.  H1N1 is spiking in our state with over 200 school closings last week alone.

That was 4 p.m Thursday.  By bedtime, her fever was 101.5.  That’s when I had to break it to her that she’d miss Friday’s field trip.  At that point, the disappointment was worse than the flu.

By Friday morning, she no longer cared.  She was sick.  Here’s our experience with the swine flu:

Day 1: Sore throat, growing fever, normal activity levels.

Day 2: Sore throat, productive cough coming from her throat (not lungs), headache, fatigue, body aches, runny nose, and a high fever — 103.5 and holding steady, even with medication. We were prescribed Tamiflu, but had to do a little legwork to find the pediatric version.

The medication was of little use that first day, though, because a few hours later she started vomiting.

By bedtime, her fever was hitting 104.  A short ride in the car did what Tylenol couldn’t.  Thank goodness for cool fall weather.

Day 3: More of the miserable same, though by midnight the night before the vomiting had thankfully stopped.  She’d been refusing to eat or drink since the morning before, so most of the day was spent cajoling her into taking sips of Gatorade and letting her nap on the couch.  At 2 p.m. I gave her some Tylenol and tucked her into bed.  Four hours later she woke up drenched in sweat and freezing.  Fever broken!

Day 4:  Low grade fever and a gaggy cough.  Two tuna fish sandwiches and a huge glass of Gatorade for lunch.  Relief.

Day 5: Fever is mostly gone, and her activity levels are improving.  She’s still coughing, though, so there’s a lot of yelling “Quit running around!” going on here.

I’m hopeful that Day 6 will bring more improvement, and that we can breathe a sigh of relief that she’s beaten H1N1.  We sent our preschooler to Grandma’s for the weekend, but there’s little doubt she’s been exposed.  So we wait a little anxiously to see what happens next.

Here’s what stood out to me most during our experience with H1N1:

  • That fever.  This is definitely the sickest my first grader has been, but she doesn’t get sick much.  My preschooler was sicker when she had seasonal flu two years ago (but she also wasn’t given Tamiflu).  Even when we got her temp down to 102.5 or so, she still felt like a furnace.  She complained that even her eyeballs were hot.
  • Its speed.  On Friday, there were 10 kids absent from their small school (200 kids), which is normal.  Today, there are 60 absent, and the school has been closed for the week.
  • The variety of opinions from our medical community.  “Don’t treat it,” said our pediatrician.  “Here’s some Tamiflu and an antibiotic for good measure,” said our family doctor, who also said, “It’s probably seasonal.”  The ER doctor — who we saw when the vomiting started and we were concerned she was getting dehydrated — said that almost all of the flu is swine right now, and a positive influenza A culture proved it.  In the past two weeks, I’ve had one doctor tell me to stay away from the vaccine, another tell me to get it the first chance I could.  (The rest of us will be getting the vaccine when we can.)  It’s hard to know who to listen to or what to believe when the healthcare providers you trust aren’t on the same page.
  • The contagious period:  At school, the rule is that kids don’t return until they’re fever-free for 24 hours.  Her doctor told us to keep her home for seven days.

So that’s our experience … your mileage may vary.  Based on what friends and relatives are telling me, I think the Tamiflu probably shortened her illness by a day or so, so I’d expect an untreated kid to have that high fever a little longer.

Today, someone compared H1N1 to a “tidal wave” of illness, and I think that’s very appropriate.  We’ve been reading about it for six months, but the warning signs locally appeared just days before the illness became widespread.  I’d just started to consider keeping the kids home from extracurriculars — or possibly even school — when it showed up in our house.

Has H1N1 hit your house or community yet?  What was your experience like?

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