BACKGROUND

Antiviral treatment is recommended for hospitalized patients with suspected and confirmed influenza, but evidence is limited among children. We evaluated the effect of antiviral treatment on hospital length of stay (LOS) among children hospitalized with influenza.

METHODS

We included children <18 years hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza in the US Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network. We collected data for 2 cohorts: 1 with underlying medical conditions not admitted to the ICU (n = 309, 2012–2013) and an ICU cohort (including children with and without underlying conditions; n = 299, 2010–2011 to 2012–2013). We used a Cox model with antiviral receipt as a time-dependent variable to estimate hazard of discharge and a Kaplan–Meier survival analysis to determine LOS.

RESULTS

Compared with those not receiving antiviral agents, LOS was shorter for those treated ≤2 days after illness onset in both the medical conditions (adjusted hazard ratio: 1.37, P = .02) and ICU (adjusted hazard ratio: 1.46, P = .007) cohorts, corresponding to 37% and 46% increases in daily discharge probability, respectively. Treatment ≥3 days after illness onset had no significant effect in either cohort. In the medical conditions cohort, median LOS was 3 days for those not treated versus 2 days for those treated ≤2 days after symptom onset (P = .005).

CONCLUSIONS

Early antiviral treatment was associated with significantly shorter hospitalizations in children with laboratory-confirmed influenza and high-risk medical conditions or children treated in the ICU. These results support Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for prompt empiric antiviral treatment in hospitalized patients with suspected or confirmed influenza.

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