As widespread swine flu cases have spread to twenty-six states, more and more parents and pediatricians are having to care for kids with swine flu.
What is the best way to do that?
Surviving Swine Flu
One of the first things to do is resist the urge to run to your pediatrician's office just because you think your child has the swine flu. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if your child has mild flu-like symptoms, then he 'should stay home from school or child care.'
A child should be seen by a pediatrician if he or she:
- is younger than three months old and has a fever
- has a chronic medical condition (such as asthma, a heart problem, sickle cell disease), a severe neurological disorder, or a weakened immune system, etc.
- has severe swine flu symptoms, such as lethargy, irritability, fast breathing, persistent vomiting, or dehydration, etc.
The CDC also recommends that parents of children who are younger than age five years, and especially younger than two years, contact their pediatrician if their child has swine flu symptoms. These children are in a high risk group for getting flu complications and may need to be seen. Children between the ages of two and four years with mild swine flu symptoms and who aren't in a high risk group may not need treatment for the flu though.
Of course, any parent should take his or her child to the pediatrician if symptoms are present -- even if they aren't in a high risk group. But keep in mind that many pediatric offices are getting overwhelmed with swine flu cases, which makes it hard for them to see high risk children if all kids with swine flu make an appointment.
Swine Flu Treatments
But don't you need to go to your pediatrician to get a swine flu treatment, like Tamiflu or Relenza?
Not necessarily. The CDC states that the 'priority use for these drugs this season is to treat people who are very sick (hospitalized) or people who are sick with flu symptoms and who are at increased risk of serious flu complications, such as pregnant women, young children, people 65 and older and people with chronic health conditions.' So, most older kids without chronic medical conditions will likely not be offered treatment with Tamiflu or Relenza, even if they have swine flu and see their pediatrician.
For most children, swine flu treatments instead will consist of:
- pain and fever reducers, such as Tylenol (Acetaminophen) or Motrin (Ibuprofen) in an age-appropriate dose
- cold and cough medications, if your child is over age four years old
- plenty of clear liquids
Avoiding Swine Flu
Once someone in your home has swine flu, you should take some steps to help keep it from spreading throughout your family.
Most importantly, as best you can, quarantine the child who is sick in one room of the house and have only one adult take care of him (if possible). It can also be helpful to:
- encourage everyone in the house to frequently wash their hands with soap and water
- avoid face-to-face contact with the sick child
- clean any surfaces the sick child contact has with using a household disinfectant
- keep him away from others until he is free of fever for at least 24 hours
American Academy of Pediatrics. Frequently Asked Questions About H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu). Accessed September 2009. http://www2.aap.org/advocacy/releases/may09swinefluqanda.htm
CDC. Advice for Parents on Talking to Children About Novel H1N1 Flu (Formerly Swine Flu) Concerns. Accessed September 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/talkingtokids.htm
CDC. Interim Guidance for 2009 H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu): Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm
CDC. Updated Interim Recommendations for the Use of Antiviral Medications in the Treatment and Prevention of Influenza for the 2009-2010 Season. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/recommendations.htm
CDC. What To Do If You Get Sick: 2009 H1N1 and Seasonal Flu. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/sick.htm