The new H1N1 “swine flu” virus has garnered a lot of attention from the media recently, especially now that school is back in session and the regular flu season has started. Influenza outbreaks are more likely in areas of high foot traffic and dense population. The H1N1 strain, unlike the common flu, seems to prey on the young, who have not acquired the antibodies during previous pandemics, affecting them more than older people.
For these reasons, schools have been recognized as potential hot spots for outbreaks. In particular, school sports teams, are of high risk due to the close physical contact of teammates on the fields and on the bus.
Schools nationwide are already experiencing outbreaks: 37 players on Stillman College’s football team contracted swine flu. Tulane and Duke have experienced similar infection rates on their football teams. 122 students at Camden County High School in Georgia fell ill to the virus as well.
The risk is real, but there are many ways to limit your and your child’s risk of contracting swine flu.
The CDC recommends that you and your child:
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds (long enough for children to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice). Be sure to set a good example by washing your own hands.
Cough and sneeze into a tissue, and then throw it away immediately. Again, set a good example by using tissue yourself. If no tissue is available, cover your sneeze with your sleeve.
- Stay at least six feet away from people who are sick.
- Keep you child home from school if he is sick, and stay away from sick people until they are better.
Symptoms of H1N1 include:
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Low energy
- Runny Nose
If your child appears to have some or all of these symptoms, they most likely have the regular flu, but there is an increased risk that it is H1N1 and should be treated as such.
Most cases of H1N1 are mild. However, if the symptoms include irregular breathing, a change of skin color, non-responsive behavior, continued vomiting, high fever, or a lack of urination, take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room immediately.
Otherwise, contact your pediatrician and do the following:
- Remove your child from school until fever and sickness subsides (1-8 days)
- Keep your child adequately hydrated
- Have your child rest as much as possible