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An H1N1 swine flu resource for parents

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What began as an unusual flu outbreak in Mexico has since spread worldwide and instilled fear in many parents about what to do to best protect their child from the H1N1 (swine) flu.

“As many parents already know, everyday steps can help protect their child from H1N1, or any virus such as the seasonal flu,” said Martin Lustick, M.D., a pediatrician and senior vice president and corporate medical director for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

“Parents should reinforce to their children the importance of frequently washing their hands with soap and water,” he said. “Children, for example, could try washing their hands for as long as it takes them to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.”

Also, when children cough or sneeze, they should cover their mouth or nose with a tissue, immediately throwing the tissue away. If a tissue isn’t available, they should cough or sneeze into their upper arm, not their hand.

Lustick offered several other tips for parents:

  • Try to keep your child away from people who are sick. If anyone in your household catches the flu, try to keep that person in a room away from others.

  • Children should try to avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread this way.

  • Help your child be healthy. They should get plenty of sleep, exercise, drink a lot of fluids and eat healthy foods.

  • Keep surfaces in your home clean. Use a disinfectant to wipe down bedside tables, bathroom surfaces, kitchen counters and toys for children.

Parents should also consider the H1N1 vaccination for their child.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, has said that groups such as pregnant women and young children should be among the first to get the vaccine. These groups are at heightened risk of experiencing complications should they get H1N1.

Please note that as of late October 2009, the H1N1 vaccine is not yet widely available. Once the H1N1 vaccine is more widely available, your local health department may offer H1N1 flu shot clinics. Click here to find your local health department’s Web site.

The usual seasonal flu viruses are still expected to cause illness this fall and winter. Children are still encouraged to get their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible.

How much will the H1N1 flu shot cost?

The U.S. government is covering the costs associated with the actual H1N1 vaccine serum, so the vaccine itself is FREE. Still, there is an administrative cost involved (possibly $20 to $25) when health care providers administer the H1N1 vaccine to patients.

If you have health insurance through Excellus BCBS, click here, and then click on the H1N1 information under “What’s New” to find member details about coverage for the administration of the H1N1 vaccine.

What do I do if my child comes down with H1N1?

If your child has flu-like symptoms (ie: cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting), please keep them home, avoiding contact with other people. If you have any questions, please call your pediatrician.

Most people with H1N1 have had a mild form of the illness, and have not needed medical care.

Certain people are more likely to get flu complications, however, including children younger than 5 years old, especially those younger than 2 years old. It is especially important for parents of children with flu-like symptoms who are at this young age to talk to their pediatrician.

Remember that the emergency room is only for people who are very sick. According to the CDC, emergency warning signs in children include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing

  • Bluish skin color

  • Not waking up or not interacting

  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and a worse cough

  • Fever with a rash

  • Not drinking enough fluids

For more information

A resource for parents on talking to their children about the flu (PDF file)

http://www.nasponline.org/resources/Talking_With_Children_About_Flu_FINAL.pdf

Sesame Street public service announcements regarding the flu, featuring Elmo and Sid the Science Kid

Seasonal and H1N1 flu: A guide for parents from the CDC (PDF file)

Advice on when to seek medical care, a video from the Monroe County Health Department

Vaccine safety information from the CDC

Flu myths and realities

Resources for pregnant women

 

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