How can I protect my child from H1N1 virus (swine flu)
John Po, MD, is an infectious disease physician at Banner Estrella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 327-4144.
Question: With my kids back in school, what can I do to help protect them from novel H1N1 flu? What should I do if they become ill?
Answer: The novel H1N1 influenza virus (formerly called “swine flu”) is a variation of the seasonal influenza virus that is causing illness in people here in the United States, and around the world. This virus is similar to seasonal flu in terms of its symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, congestion, etc.) and how it spreads from person to person (coughing, sneezing, and touching contaminated surfaces). What makes this virus different is that it infects a greater number of younger people compared to past seasonal influenza virus infections. Therefore, it can be spread quickly in environments like schools, dorms, and other public places.
Children 12 years and younger have a harder time making specific antibodies to prevent the spread of novel H1N1 influenza virus. People with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and suppressed immune systems, may have an increased risk.
Some everyday precautions you can take to decrease the risk of your children from becoming infected are to regularly disinfect high touch objects in your home such as telephones, light switches and doorknobs, along with teaching your kids to:
- Frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inside of their elbows
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth
- Keep a good distance from people who are sick
Fortunately, most novel H1N1 cases are mild and improve without any medical treatment or visits to the emergency department. If a child does become sick with flu-like symptoms, keep your child home from school until all of the symptoms are gone. Rest, plenty of fluids and over-the-counter medicines, such as Tylenol, ibuprofen and decongestants, may help alleviate some of the symptoms. Let your child’s doctor know if he or she has other underlying health conditions to determine if additional treatment is necessary.
On the other hand, in some instances, the virus can cause severe, life-threatening illness that requires emergency medical care. If your child’s condition doesn’t improve, or if you notice symptoms such as difficulty breathing, a change in skin color, persistent fever, dehydration, severe diarrhea or vomiting, extreme fatigue and seizures, contact your child’s healthcare provider immediately. These are signs that urgent medical care is needed.
For more information, visit www.BannerHealth.com, Keyword: H1N1.