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'He couldn't breathe, it was really scary' - Cornwall mum's terror as eight-year-old son is rushed to hospital with flu

A mum has spoken about the terrifying moment her eight-year-old son was rushed to hospital with flu and ended up on a ventilator in intensive care.

Janine Riley, from Cornwall, says Henry went from being a 'fit and healthy' schoolboy who loved playing rugby, to struggling to breathe properly or walk along a corridor.

Henry was transferred to intensive care in Bristol. Credit: Public Health England

He was fine one day, playing rugby, came home with a tummy ache. We put him to bed with paracetamol and ibuprofen. The next day he was really poorly, very hot, struggled breathing, so we called an ambulance and within a few minutes he had been rushed to hospital.

A few minutes more in A&E and he was taken theatre and put to sleep and he was taken to intensive care. It was really scary. They couldn't look after him in our hospital so they transferred him to Bristol paediatric intensive care unit, where he was on a ventilator for three days. But he was really lucky and did recover really well, enough to come back to our local hospital where he stayed for another two weeks.

We had lots of physiotherapy, getting him to breathe again. He couldn't stand up, he couldn't walk. He'd gone in a few days from being a fit, healthy eight-year-old boy to not being able to walk down the corridor, it was really sad.

– Janine Riley, Henry's mum
Henry and his mum Janine have joined Public Health England's campaign. Credit: Public Health England

All primary school children are now eligible for a free flu vaccination, and Public Health England wants to increase the rate of youngsters being given the nasal spray.

Parents will be asked to complete a consent form allowing their child to be vaccinated.

Around 60 percent of school aged children in the South Wet took up the vaccine last year.

We are so pleased that Year 6 children are now eligible for the flu vaccine which means that all children in primary school can now have this vaccination at school. Flu is a really nasty bug and it is not like having a cold. It can have serious complications and can be life threatening.

At the very least it can knock you off your feet for days. This means absence from school for children and time off work for parents, not to mention the possibility of spreading the bug in families especially in the older more vulnerable community.

– Dr Julie Yates, head of screening and immunisation at Public Health England South West
Henry's mum says he was 'really lucky' to recover. Credit: Public Health England

Last year 62 per cent of school aged children had the vaccine in the South West.

If your child is in primary school they will be offered a free flu vaccination at the school.

The vaccine for children is no longer an injection; it is a simple nasal spray that takes a few seconds to administer.

However to be vaccinated, the flu vaccination school health team have to you’re your consent to give the vaccine and if this hasn’t been received your child may miss out.

People who are eligible for the flu vaccine this year include:

  • Adults aged 65 and over
  • Adults aged 18-64 with a chronic health condition
  • Children aged 2-3 via their GP practice
  • School children in years reception, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
  • Pregnant women
  • Health and social care workers
  • Carers
  • Morbidly obese people

For more information on the vaccine visit the flu pages on the NHS choices website at www.nhs.uk/child-flu