By Delece Smith-Barrow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The first swine flu precaution that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests for parents: As soon as a vaccine is available, try to get it for everyone in your family.
"We're going to continue to stress that the vaccine is the most important thing that parents can do to protect their children," said Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesman. This H1N1 vaccine should be taken in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine, and not as a replacement for it. (The seasonal flu vaccine, offered every fall, is recommended for people at risk for serious complications, including very young children, people older than 65, those with chronic health conditions and pregnant women.)
Following are other CDC recommendations for parents:
-- All members of the household should wash their hands frequently, using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Antibacterial soaps are no better than ordinary soaps, since swine flu is caused by a virus, not by bacteria.
-- Teach children to use tissues to cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing. If tissues are unavailable, the crook of an elbow or a shoulder is a good substitute -- not the hands, which can spread the virus to whatever they touch.
-- Anyone who becomes sick -- flu symptoms include fever, sore throat, coughing, chills, fatigue and a runny nose -- should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. If symptoms worsen, children should extend their stay at home for seven more days, no matter how soon they feel better. This means home, not just out of school: "Children shouldn't be . . . mixing in crowds or going to malls when they are sick," said Lance Chilton, a member of the CDC's advisory committee on immunization practices. And once any member of a household gets sick, all school-age children should remain home for five days.
-- Children should receive emergency care if their breathing becomes rapid or if they have trouble breathing, develop bluish or gray skin color or severe or persistent vomiting, or if their flulike symptoms improve but come back with a fever and more severe cough. Resistance to drinking adequate amounts of water, irritability and a difficulty waking up and interacting with others are also warning signs.
Adults who experience difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting and flulike symptoms that improve but come back with a fever and more severe cough should also seek emergency care.
Besides the CDC Web site, http://www.cdc.gov, information on the H1N1 virus can be found at these sites:
The Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/swine-flu/AN02000
U.S. government: http://www.flu.gov
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/Flu/understandingFlu/2009h1n1.htm