Infectious Diseases

October 4, 2021

Neurologic complications of the flu

Neurologic complications are common in children hospitalized with influenza, especially those with chronic neurologic conditions, and are associated with worse outcomes.

Over the last decade, there has been increasing awareness of neurologic complications associated with influenza infection, particularly in children, but studies attempting to characterize these complications have had limited scope and conflicting results. 

James Antoon, MD, PhD, and colleagues conducted a multicenter study evaluating neurologic complications among children hospitalized with influenza in the U.S. The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, included children 2 months to 17 years old admitted to 49 children’s hospitals during the influenza seasons of 2015-2020. 

Among 29,676 children hospitalized with influenza, 7.6% had a concurrent neurologic complication, most frequently febrile seizures, encephalopathy and nonfebrile seizures. Neurologic complications were associated with prolonged length of stay, increased costs and increased death. 

Children who were male, Asian race, and those with chronic neurologic conditions were at higher risk of neurologic complications, emphasizing the importance of influenza immunization and treatment in this population, the researchers conclude.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants HL137943, AI021325, AI141621, AI048459, AI125642).