Although we all kind of just hope that swine flu just goes away and don't want to seem like we are panicked, it isn't a safe idea to just ignore swine flu cases either.
Preparing for Swine Flu
To prepare for a swine flu outbreak in your area, the CDC recommends that you:
- Develop a family emergency plan, including storing a supply of food and water, prescription medicines, fever reducers, age-appropriate cough and cold medicines, facemasks, alcohol-based hand rubs and other essential supplies.
- Follow public health advice, which will likely come from your local health department and/or school district, regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
- Stay informed.
Do you really need an emergency supply of food in your home? If there are an increasing number of swine flu cases in your area, schools are closed, and you are home from work, do you really think you are going to want to go to the grocery store or take your kids out to dinner?
Unlike other disaster planning plans, like for a hurricane, in which electricity will likely go out, you probably don't need only non-perishable foods as part of your emergency plan food storage supply. On the other hand, since we don't know if or when a swine flu outbreak will hit, a 10-day supply of non-perishable foods can help ensure that you are ready in a month or six months. These non-perishable foods might include ready-to-eat canned meats and vegetables, protein bars, dry cereal, peanut butter, crackers, water, sports drinks, and non-perishable milk, etc.
If this seems far-fetched, keep in mind that the Department of Homeland Security recommends that all people keep a basic emergency supply kit in their home at all times, including water and non-perishable food to last at least three days.
Avoiding the Swine Flu
In addition to avoiding people who are known to have swine flu or who are suspected of having swine flu, the CDC recommends that you can stay healthy by using the same steps that you use to avoid seasonal flu, including:
- Encouraging kids to wash their hands often, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleanser. Remember that one of the most common ways people catch colds and the flu is rubbing their nose or eyes after their hands have been contaminated with a virus. By washing your hands often, especially:
- before, during, and after you prepare food
- before you eat, and after you use the bathroom
- after handling animals or animal waste
- when your hands are dirty
- more frequently when someone in your home is sick
- Routinely cleaning with soap and water and disinfecting surfaces, toys, and objects that younger children may put in their mouths. It may also help to wipe surfaces with paper towels that can be thrown away or cloth towels that can be washed afterwards.
- Encouraging kids to not touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Using disposable tissues to wipe or blow your child's nose.
- Teaching your children 'cough etiquette.' The American Academy of Pediatrics describes this as teaching children to turn their heads and cough, or sneeze into a disposable tissue or the inside of their elbow, instead of simply coughing or sneezing onto their hands.
- Avoiding close contact with people when you are sick. It isn't really possible to completely avoid people who are sick, so it is likely better to just avoid exposing other people to your germs when you or your kids are sick. Don't go to school, daycare, work, etc. if you are sick.
- Taking a reusable water bottle to school instead of using the school water fountain, which may become contaminated with germs.
Anti-flu medications, including Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir), are also available to prevent swine flu if you have been exposed to someone who is sick with it. Children who are at least five years old can take Relenza for swine flu prevention, while Tamiflu is available for infants over age three months.