15 Swine Flu Facts Every Parent Should Know

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October 19, 2009

As we get deeper and deeper into flu season, you are probably bombarded with questions from nervous parents about how to keep their kids safe and healthy. Swine flu, or H1N1, is especially worrisome for parents of babies, little kids and even teens and college students since it can affect even normally healthy individuals. As a nursing student or intern, you’ll need to be prepared to answer any questions that come your way about preventing and treating the swine flu. Here are 15 swine flu facts every parent should know, just in case you’re the one they ask.

Vaccines

Find out who needs a vaccine, whether or not it’s safe, and how it’s administered here.

  1. The vaccine has been approved by WHO: The World Health Organization, or WHO, has approved the safety of the swine flu vaccine and is considered to be one of the safest flu vaccines ever created. The FDA approved the vaccine back in September.
  2. Vaccine side effects are mild: NPR reported that of 39,000 individuals treated with the swine flu vaccine in China, only four have reported side effects, which include mild symptoms of muscle cramps and headache. The Guardian also reported that 45% of Australian volunteers and 42% of UK volunteers claimed to suffer minor muscle aches or headaches after receiving the vaccine.
  3. Children from 6 months to 18 years should get the swine flu vaccine: Doctors and health professionals have recommended that all children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years should get the vaccine since so many cases among these age groups were reported earlier in the year, and because schools easily allow for the spread of germs. If you have college aged kids, you should strongly suggest that they receive the vaccine as well, since they live, study and socialize in such close quarters.
  4. The shot vs. the nasal spray: Individuals who are not pregnant and who are between the ages of 2 and 49 are approved to receive the vaccine in the nasal spray form, which is also called LAIV or FluMist.

Prevention

These swine flu facts and recommendations encourage parents to teach their children about hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and picking up other generally healthy habits.

  1. Teach your kids good hand-washing habits: Emphasize hand washing after using the restroom, before eating, and after touching high-use or high-traffic surfaces, like door handles. Pack a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your child’s bag if he or she is old enough to use it independently.
  2. Flyers, posters and education are the most effective ways to teach kids about swine flu: Your child’s school has probably already put up posters and flyers about hand washing, but you can print out posters like these around your house to reinforce the proper ways to cover coughs and sneezes.
  3. Enforce bed times: Kids need 8 hours of sleep each night to maintain a strong immune system.
  4. Younger people are more at risk for swine flu: Unlike the seasonal flu, healthy young people are susceptible to getting sick, while older people are staying healthier. The New York Times reports that up to 40% of children become sick with the regular seasonal flu, and swine flu rates are expected to be higher.
  5. Teach your kids to keep their hands away from their faces: This task may be a difficult one if you have small children, but germs are more easily spread when you are constantly touching your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Teach your kids to wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their faces.
  6. You cannot catch swine flu from eating pork: Swine flu is absolutely not present in properly handled pork products, and you cannot contract swine flu from eating pork.

Symptoms

If you have these symptoms, you’ll need to be tested and treated for swine flu.

  1. Swine flu symptoms are similar to seasonal flu symptoms: Fever, coughing, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throats, runny noses, vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of swine flu, though not every person gets every symptoms when he or she gets sick.
  2. When should you see a doctor?: Take you children to a doctor immediately if they already suffer from a health condition like asthma and are displaying flu-like symptoms. Other signs that deserve urgent medical attention include having a fever with a rash or seizure, severe vomiting, are exceptionally irritable and do not want to be held, are not waking up or are not drinking enough fluids, and begin to have worsening symptoms after seemingly getting better.

Care and Treatment

What should you do if your child gets swine flu? Help nervous parents get their kids back on track by quoting these facts and offering these tips.

  1. There are four approved drugs for swine flu treatment in the U.S.: These four include amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir, though doctors believe oseltamivir and zanamivir are the most effective.
  2. Plan for a pandemic: The U.S. government website pandemicflu.gov is monitoring the pandemic status of the swine flu and recommends that families store a two-week supply of water and food in their homes to minimize the number of times you have to go out in public.
  3. Swine flu is potentially more fatal than seasonal flu: Regular seasonal flu kills 250,000 – 500,000 worldwide every year, reports CNN.com. Though it is not yet known how many people will die from swine flu this year, officials are more worried about the spread of swine flu because fewer people are already immune to it. If one person gets sick, minimize the spread of the flu by wearing masks and keeping children and those with pre-existing health conditions away from the sick person.

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