Children experiencing hallucinations as part of Influenza A: Vernon doctor

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Children experiencing hallucinations as part of Influenza A: Vernon doctor
A Vernon doctor is sharing her daughter's experience with the flu and the uncommon symptom she endured while battling the illness. According to the doctor, this year's flu strain caused the young girl to have hallucinations, seeing and hearing people that weren't there. Jasmine King reports. – Dec 14, 2022

A Vernon pediatrician is warning parents that among other disquieting symptoms, hallucinations are part and parcel of the ongoing flu outbreak.

Interior Health posted a firsthand account of Dr. Kathryn MacKinlay’s daughter’s recent bout of the flu, which included some upset after an apparent auditory hallucination of people yelling.

“It’s 7 a.m. and, after I spent the night treating her high fever, Marissa is finally feeling better but is suddenly terrified by what she’s hearing,” the North Okanagan doctor wrote.

“She thought she could hear voices yelling at her, she thought she could see a bench with people on it and none of those things were real.”

Read more: 6 children in B.C. have died of a flu-related illness this season: BC CDC

“Most parents would be similarly terrified while seeing their child in such distress: flailing, yelling and confused. Not me. As an emergency doctor, I have seen many other kids hallucinating these last few weeks while sick with Influenza A.”

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MacKinley said the emergency department at Vernon Jubilee Hospital had been visited by children hearing loud sounds, seeing objects too large or too far away, and feeling scared that someone or something is trying to hurt them.

Click to play video: 'B.C. walk-in clinics focus on getting kids vaccinated against influenza'
B.C. walk-in clinics focus on getting kids vaccinated against influenza

These episodes of delirium, Dr. MacKinley said, are quick and do not require treatment.

“Each episode of them was quite brief, only lasting a minute to two minutes but happened a few times over the course of the day. As long as (my daughter) wasn’t confused or scared between these episodes, there was nothing I could do other than offer cuddles,” she said.

That said, there are other symptoms of the flu that can be dealt with, including vaccination.

“The best you can do during the illness itself is offer hydration and help to control the fever,” she said.

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Read more: West Kelowna, B.C. family searching for answers after death of 9-year-old daughter

“Kids with fevers often look really, really sick, but remember that the fever itself is not dangerous, and alternating Advil and Tylenol every three hours works will bring the fever down.”

MacKinley said that from September to April, most kids get up to 10 respiratory viruses.

“This year we are seeing a particularly nasty combination of influenza, COVID-19, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) in kids less than three years old, as well as common colds,” she said.

“While it’s hard to see your child sick so frequently, almost all of these viruses can be managed at home with fluids, Advil/Tylenol, and some TLC.”

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What elevates the risk to something that requires an emergency visit, she said, is when a child goes into respiratory distress, becomes unusually pale, has whitish or blue lips, asthma or wheezing, and is not responding to prescribed medications.

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With a fever in a child younger than three months old, she said, go to the emergency room. If the fever persists for more than five days in a child at any age, a hospital visit is needed.

A fever with a rash that looks like blisters or bruises that don’t turn white or fade when you push on them is also cause to go to the hospital.

“Influenza has many different presentations, particularly this year we are seeing a strain of it that is quite virulent and so there’s lots of different symptoms kids are experiencing,” she said.

The BC Centre for Disease Control said last week it is aware of six reports of flu-related deaths among children and youth, people under the age of 19, in the province.

In a statement to Global News, the organization said “early findings indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness which can be a complication of influenza.

“It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare. Public health is monitoring the situation closely, and are reminding people of the steps they can take to prevent themselves, their children and their loved ones against the flu.”

Click to play video: 'Influenza claims the lives of 6 B.C. children'
Influenza claims the lives of 6 B.C. children

One of those deaths was in West Kelowna. At the end of November, Ayla Loseth, 9, died from what her grandfather said was a bacterial infection while battling the flu.   That case is now being investigated.

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“Generally, if an unexpected event or death occurs with a patient in hospital, this event is treated with the utmost seriousness,” Dr. Shallen Letwin, vice president of clinical operations for IH South, said in a statement.

“Interior Health will fully review the case to identify any possible opportunities for learning or system-level improvements as part of our ongoing commitment to quality and patient safety in our hospitals.”

— With files from Jasmine King and Amy Judd

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