What parents should know about the Swine Flu
When the H1N1 virus (or swine flu) went from just a nebulous mention on the news to a confirmed case at my children's elementary school, I decided it might be time to weed through the fact and fiction of this virus. With all of the misinformation out there, I wanted to educate myself with the latest before I succumbed to the mass hysteria and started sewing color-coordinated facemasks to match their uniforms.
So what’s a reasonable parent to do when H1N1 hits close to home?
Wash your hands, and then wash them again. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hand-washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of H1N1. Your child’s school has probably already re-emphasized this practice throughout the day, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have them wash as soon as they come home and often throughout the evening.
Be prepared to stay home. If your child feels sick, err on the side of staying home. The CDC recommends“ until at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever or signs of a fever (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine). Keeping sick students at home means that they keep their viruses to themselves rather than sharing them with others.” This means a full 24 hours -- not just the eight to 10 hours your child sleeps overnight. If the fever breaks at 10 p.m., then he should not go to school the next day.
Those symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue; diarrhea and vomiting may also be symptoms of swine flu.
Consider getting your child vaccinated. Discuss it with your pediatrician, but keep in mind that the seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against the H1N1. The flu nasal spray is available now and the vaccine is expected to be available next week.
Sneeze in the crook of your arm, and keep your hands off of your face. A little tough for little ones to remember, but as parents we know that the spread of this disease is through the nose, mouth and eyes. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if hand-washing is not immediately available.
While not government agency-issued advice, here’s some good tips that fall in the certainly-can’t-hurt category:
Dr. Oz recommends boosting your immune system with plenty of Vitamin D, (we tend not to get as much in the winter months when flu season hits hardest), eating lots of probiotics (yogurt and soy), and plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. He also reminds us to keep hydrated.
Gargle with saltwater. Since the germ is spread mainly through the mouth and nose, a number of different home remedy sites recommend the use of gargling with warm saltwater twice a day. Some even suggest the use of a Neti pot or cleansing the nostrils with swabs.
Forget about that face mask. Even the CDC isn’t recommending face masks for prevention of H1N1 in non-health related fields. A popular quote around the Internet from a respiratory doctor compared the use of a mask to prevent the virus as “like protecting against rain with an umbrella made of mosquito net.”
Wipe down surfaces with household disinfectants. The virus can live on surfaces for an estimated 2-8 hours. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to wipe or spray down counters, light switches and door knobs. And don't forget the TV remote, salt and pepper shakers and the refrigerator door handle. Maybe we should all just wear gloves!
But perhaps the best advice is from WebMd suggesting our best tool as parents is, “vigilance, not panic or complacency.”
You can follow the latest flu news by signing up for email alerts from the CDC or follow @CDCFlu on Twitter.
-- Tracey Henry, the Suburban Diva