Parents' guide to avoiding the H1N1 swine flu:
Below you'll find the key prevention, planning and treatment recommendations as provided by the federal government and Consumer Reports' medical experts to help prevent the spread of swine flu (and many other illnesses, too).
- If swine flu is in your community, stay away from malls, theaters and other crowded places.
- Teach your children to wash their hands vigorously with soap and water for 20 seconds (or as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday out loud two times!), especially after going to the bathroom, before and after eating, and after coughing or sneezing. No sink available? Provide them with hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wipes.
- Show them how to cough or sneeze into the inner elbow to avoid infecting their hand, or spreading droplets around. Alternatively, remind them to cover their mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze -- and then to be sure to throw that tissue away immediately.
- Tell them to try their best to keep a distance of about six feet from others who are sick.
- Keep sick children at home from school or daycare until they are better. Children can remain infectious up to 10 days, compared to about seven days for adults.
If the flu does come to your area, expect school closings and have a plan established for taking care of your child during the day. If you don't have any friends or relatives who can care of your kids in an emergency, you might ask your employer what options you might have. Can you take time off, sick leave or telecommute?It's best to get these questions answered now, so that you're prepared in the event of a school closing, or a sick child of your own. You might also get in touch with your daycare to see if a pandemic flu plan is in place. If not, you can help them make one.
Treatment for H1N1 swine flu
If your child does get symptoms of the flu, call your health provider to see about testing and treatment. Typical symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and headache, chills and fatigue and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Very young children appear less likely to have typical flu symptoms, like fever and cough. In young children also watch for difficulty breathing and low activity. If infants have fever and lethargy, call the doctor, even if they don't have respiratory symptoms, like coughing.Pregnant women and young children, especially those under 5 years of age and those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of complications of flu.Your doctor may prescribe one of the antiviral drugs -- either Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or Relenza (zanamivir) -- for children one year of age or older. Also, the FDA recently issued an emergency authorization allowing Tamiflu to be prescribed for children under one.In addition to an antiviral medication, ask about fever reducing medications appropriate for their age. Stay away from aspirin, and aspirin-containing products such as Pepto-Bismol, which can cause Reye's syndrome, and for children under six, cough and cold medicines. Make sure children have plenty of liquids, such as water, juice or Pedialyte, and keep them comfortable so they get enough rest.
Avoid transmitting the swine flu to others
To limit transmission, try to keep sick children separated from uninfected ones, and give them a box of tissues and a garbage bag to throw them away in.
When to get help
Seek emergency help if you notice any of the following symptoms in children:
- Rapid breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Dehydration or refusing fluids
- Child won't wake up or interact with you
- Extreme irritability making the child not want to be held
- Symptoms improve then return with fever and an even worse cough
For more information on avoiding the H1N1 swine flu:
Visit the Consumer Reports flu blog.
Swine flu: The best way to avoid H1N1 swine flu
Avoid H1N1 swine flu with a strong immune system
See what others are saying about the swine flu
SheKnows message boards: How concerned are you about the H1N1 swine flu?