2009 H1N1: What Can Parents Do?by Rebecca Miller, M.D. The 2009 H1N1 flu virus, referred to as swine flu during the initial outbreak, can spread easily from person to person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with 2009 H1N1 can pass the virus to others up to seven or more days after they get sick. And children, especially younger ones, might be contagious for even longer. What does this mean for you as a parent with a child in day care or school?
Be PreparedYou need to know the symptoms, which are similar to those of regular flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, headache and body aches, chills, and fatigue. In some cases, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. Rather than display the typical symptoms, young children may experience difficulty breathing and be less active than normal.
Know How to Treat IllnessIf your kids become ill and display typical flu-like symptoms, keep them at home. Make sure they get lots of rest and drink plenty of juice, water, and/ or Pedialyte. I recommend Children’s Tylenol or Motrin to reduce a high fever, making sure to follow the recommended dose for your child’s age and weight. Never give a child aspirin.
If your kids display one or more of the following symptoms, seek emergency medical care right away:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids (clue: your child does not urinate for more than eight hours)
- Not waking up or interacting
- Being irritable and not wanting to be held
- Persistent or severe vomiting
- Flu symptoms that improve and later return with fever and worse cough
Teach Healthy HabitsLike the regular flu, the best way to handle 2009 H1N1 flu is to avoid getting sick in the first place. The flu shot is the best way to protect you and your children from seasonal flu, and there is an approved vaccine for 2009 H1N1, too. The CDC recommends the vaccine for children 6 months and older. People should receive this vaccine in addition to the regular flu shot, not instead of it.
Simple measures can also help prevent the spread of the flu virus. Frequent, proper hand washing is one of the easiest ways to prevent illness.
Show children how to properly wash their hands with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If your kids are young and tend to rush, teach them to sing a short song, such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or the “Happy Birthday” song, while washing their hands. It’s a fun and effective way to make sure they wash long enough.
Teach children to cough or sneeze into a tissue, their elbow, or their upper arm, and to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose, and mouth. Also, discourage them from sharing cups, utensils, and bottles with others.
For more information, or to make an appointment with Dr. Miller, please call 231-869-7051.