Facts on Swine Flu and Children

A lot of people are worried about the swine flu.  I want to be sure parents have the facts and so I asked one of the CHOC Children’s experts a few questions.  Here’s what she had to say:

What is swine flu?
Swine flu, or swine influenza, is a contagious respiratory disease that affects pigs and is caused by the type A influenza virus.  These swine viruses do not typically infect humans; however, there have been instances of the virus spreading to people – and then from one person to another.

How does the swine flu spread?
The swine flu is thought to spread the same way as seasonal flu does in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.  An infected person can spread the virus before any symptoms develop.

What are the symptoms of swine flu?
Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those experienced with seasonal flu: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people with swine flu have also reported vomiting and diarrhea.

Are children at greater risk?
At this time, there have been more cases occurring in children compared to adults. Keep in mind children with pre-existing medical conditions or weakened immune symptoms are at greater risk for developing complications from the flu, including death.  Parents should teach their children proper hand washing techniques and keep sick children home from school and daycare settings.

What’s the best way to teach children about proper hand washing to help prevent the spread of germs?
Frequent hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. It is important to teach children as early as preschool about proper hand washing techniques. Start by wetting both hands with warm water. Apply soap and rub vigorously, including the palms, back of hands and in between fingers. Keep rubbing vigorously for at least 15 seconds. Here’s a tip: Have your child wash for as long as it takes to sing the “ABC Song.” Turn off the water using a paper towel. Teach your child that hand washing is a must after using the bathroom, before and after eating, after blowing his nose or coughing, after playing with pets, after playing outside and, of course, when hands are visibly dirty. In addition to frequent hand washing, teach your child to never share straws, cups and eating utensils. It’s also a good idea to teach your child to cover his mouth when he coughs or sneezes.  If he can’t get to a tissue, he should cough or sneeze into the crook of his arm or into his shoulder. As a last resort, if he must sneeze into his hand – then, of course, immediately wash his hands.

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