Swine flu sign language for babies

A BOOKLET teaching babies to use "swine language" to alert parents to possible flu symptoms has been produced by a Scottish childcare specialist.

The book's author, Yvonne K Lavelle, said the signing technique could help babies and young children tell adults they felt hot, needed more water or were in pain.

Ms Lavelle, who runs a nanny agency in Glasgow, has used "baby signing" to help youngsters since 2004, after learning about its use in the United States.

"I have found that the babies become less frustrated – they can communicate more specifically what they are feeling if they want a hug or are feeling hot and tired," she said. "They can communicate that through a simple sign."

After producing a general guide to the technique, which has been published in the UK, the US and Canada, in the last week Ms Lavelle has produced one specifically dealing with swine flu symptoms.

"It's about saying to parents that if you give your small child or baby a few weeks and teach them these signs, they will be able to tell you what is actually wrong with them.

"You can pick that up and highlight if a child is suffering, rather than a baby just crying."

She added: "How quickly children learn the signs depends on how you teach them. You can't just do the sign for 'hot'. But say you brought food out that was hot, that is one of the ways you can associate the sign hot with something being hot.

"A five-month-old child will take four to five weeks to pick it up, but it does depend on the child as well."

Signs shown in the booklet include those indicating a child is hot, cold, in pain, has a sore throat or wants more water.

Belinda Phipps, from the National Childbirth Trust, said most parents could tell their baby was not very well.

"Usually that is because the baby stops eating very much or feels hot. They just know because they don't look right and are a bit listless and off-colour. So mostly parents don't need more than that," she said.

Yesterday, it emerged that a soldier has become the latest person to die after contracting swine flu. Bombardier Lee Porter, from Coleraine in Northern Ireland, died last week, two weeks after contracting the bug. He had underlying health problems.

Thirty-two people in the UK have died with swine flu. A total of 22 Britons are in quarantine worldwide because of the H1N1 virus and are receiving assistance, a Foreign Office spokesman said.

SURVEY FEARS

ALMOST nine out of ten GPs believe diagnosing swine flu over the phone means other diseases could be missed, a poll found yesterday.

Infections such as tonsillitis or bronchitis may be overlooked as well as serious diseases such as meningitis, they said.

The survey of 251 GPs found 87 per cent agreed that diagnosing swine flu on the phone meant other diseases may be missed.

Another 10 per cent were unsure and only 3 per cent said "no", accord to the GP newspaper poll.

The government's National Pandemic Flu Service consists of a telephone service as well as a website. At the moment it applies only in England.

Yesterday, it emerged that a boy with a kidney infection became severely ill after he was misdiagnosed with swine flu over the phone.

Callum Meaker, 13, developed a temperature and said he felt dizzy and "achy", leading to the diagnosis of the H1N1 virus by out-of-hours service Frendoc. His symptoms worsened, but his mother, Karen Sarkozi, from Yate, near Bristol, had to fight to get him seen, due to swine flu guidance.

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