Dehydration has been picked out by an important new study as one of six key markers to identify sick children at greatest risk of severe complications from influenza.
The identification of the six predictive risk factors is expected to help guide nurses and doctors struggling with an influx of patients during major outbreaks of influenza.
Auckland University researcher Dr Stuart Dalziel, a paediatrician at the city's Starship children's hospital, is the lead author of the multi-country study published in the British Medical Journal.
The report is based on medical records - from 79 hospitals in 12 countries - of children taken to emergency departments in 2009 with flu-like symptoms during the H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic.
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Six risk factors were found to be linked with severe outcomes: a history of chronic lung disease, a history of cerebral palsy or developmental delay, difficulty breathing, signs of dehydration, needing oxygen treatment, and a heart rate above the normal age-based range. Dr Dalziel said the study offered more-precise data to help children with flu-like symptoms who were at greater risk of complications.