Study finds that flu can trigger neuropsychiatric issues in children with brain conditions

A study finds that the flu can cause kids to have anxiety and behavioral issues.
Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 3:28 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – The number of pediatric flu deaths is estimated to be nearly 200 per season, about a quarter are in kids under five.

Also at high risk are children with underlying brain conditions that can trigger neuropsychiatric events, some as serious as suicide. A new study seeks answers on whether the flu or treatment builds suicidal thoughts.

The flu commonly causes respiratory issues, but in some children, it can trigger neuropsychiatric issues.

“These neuropsychiatric events included things like brain inflammation, seizures, and acute behavioral changes, like suicide attempts,” James W. Antoon, MD, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explained.

In addition to those side effects are anxiety and depressive episodes. Of the 150,000 children with flu, 1,500 of them suffered a neuropsychiatric event from the flu. However, there were startling differences in those predisposed to brain disorders.

“The rate of neuropsychiatric events was about 10 times higher in those with underlying psychiatric conditions and 100 times higher in those with underlying neurologic conditions,” Antoon emphasized.

But what triggers these neuropsychiatric events? Is it flu or TamiFlu?

“There’s a number of potential ways it can happen. It’s very well-known that flu can cause inflammation in the brain, and cause something called encephalitis or encephalopathy, that causes acute behavior changes,” he added. “The anti-viral Tamiflu, or oseltamivir, has a black box warning for neuropsychiatric events.”

Antoon advises parents to discuss these risks with pediatricians to decide about flu treatment or not.

Earlier studies reported to the CDC have shown that annually, about 160,000 kids are diagnosed with flu, and the risks are higher among adolescents for flu complications. that risk soars to 100 times higher in kids predisposed to psychiatric events.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.