MONDAY, Aug. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of children with viral infections severe enough to land them in the hospital end up with serious complications -- such as pneumonia, seizures and brain swelling, a new study finds.
The study, reported online on Aug. 4 in Pediatrics, followed kids who had to be admitted to a pediatric hospital for the flu and other respiratory infections. Researchers stressed that they are much different from the vast majority of children who fall ill during cold-and-flu season.
In fact, they would likely represent only a small percentage of children seen in the ER for worrisome flu-like symptoms, said Dr. Rakesh Mistry, the lead researcher on the study and an emergency specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora.
"These kids were really ill," Mistry said of the study group, which included 241 children brought to his center's ER between 2008 and 2010.
The children had to be admitted to the hospital and required IV fluids. All underwent testing to weed out the cause of the infection -- which is not routine for kids who land in the ER with flu symptoms, Mistry noted.
In the end, about 25 percent of the children tested positive for the flu virus. The rest had a mix of viruses that typically cause the common cold, but sometimes lead to more severe respiratory infections.
Overall, 35 percent of the children developed a serious complication, such as pneumonia, inflammation around the brain, or respiratory failure. Often, those kids had underlying medical conditions that can make respiratory infections dangerous -- including neurological disorders like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
"Those children may just not have the capacity to breathe when they get these infections," e
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