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Influenza infection rates are higher in children than in other age groups. This study evaluated the efficacy, safety and tolerability of a 5-day course of twice daily inhaled zanamivir, 10 mg, compared with placebo in the treatment of symptomatic influenza A and B viral infections among children 5 to 12 years of age.This double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel group, multicenter study conducted in the Northern Hemisphere during the 1998 and 1999 influenza season enrolled 471 patients with influenza-like symptoms for ≤36 h. Patients were randomly assigned to zanamivir (n = 224) or placebo (n = 247). Symptoms were recorded on diary cards twice daily during treatment, for 9 days after treatment and for 14 additional days (if still reporting moderate/severe cough and/or taking relief medication).A total of 346 (73%) patients were influenza-positive by culture, serology or polymerase chain reaction (65% influenza A, 35% influenza B). Zanamivir reduced the median time to symptom alleviation by 1.25 days compared with placebo among patients with confirmed influenza infection (P < 0.001). Zanamivir-treated patients returned to normal activities significantly faster and took significantly fewer relief medications than placebo-treated patients. Zanamivir was well-tolerated, demonstrating adverse event profiles similar to those of placebo and no clinically significant changes in laboratory findings. Viral susceptibility testing revealed no zanamivir-resistant strains of influenza A or B.Zanamivir was effective in shortening the duration and severity of influenza symptoms and was well-tolerated among children 5 to 12 years of age.