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Fighting Flu is in Your Hands

/ Source: KARK 4 News

As children head back to school, they need more than just basic supplies like paper and crayons. They also need good pointers from Mom and Dad on how to stay healthy and avoid the flu this year. Arkansas Childrens Hospital has plenty of resources to guide families as seasonal flu and H1N1 spread, providing much needed peace of mind.

Already, type A influenza is widespread in central Arkansas, with more diagnoses made this summer at Arkansas Childrens Hospital than in any previous summer on record. The flu could sideline lots of students and parents this year, but theres no need to panic. Proper education will help parents keep their families safe and healthy, and guide them as they care for their children if they do get sick.

The best way to prevent flu from spreading is to wash your hands every chance you get and talk with your children about doing the same. Click here for other flu fighting tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many families may be scratching their heads about what to watch for this flu season. They have lots of questions, and Arkansas Childrens Hospital wants to help them find answers.

Here are a few common questions with advice from ACH physicians and the CDC:

How will I know if my child has H1N1?
Look for symptoms similar to a typical seasonal flu: fever above 100 degrees F, a persistent cough, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body and headaches, chills and general fatigue. Some people also have experienced diarrhea and vomiting. Look for a combination of symptoms like a fever and a couple of the other signs to determine whether your child may have the flu.

Are kids considered high-risk?
Yes, kids of certain ages are high-risk. The CDC has said that children younger than 5 years old are considered high-risk for H1N1. Children under 2 are especially high-risk. That doesnt mean theyre more likely to catch the disease. It means theyre more likely to have complications if they do come down with the virus. Other high-risk groups include pregnant women, those with chronic diseases ranging from asthma to diabetes, people who have low immunity because of prescriptions or other conditions, and children under 19 on long-term aspirin therapy. High-risk groups should contact their doctors as soon as they notice symptoms.

How do you get H1N1?
H1N1, like most viruses and seasonal flu, is spread by coughing and sneezing. People pick up the germs on their hands after touching objects or shaking hands. This is why its important to wash your hands or use alcohol gel as often as possible. Remember to always cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue that is quickly thrown away. Also, try to sneeze into the elbow of a jacket or shirt instead of on your hands. This way, the germs are more likely to be trapped in the fabric than passed on to hard surfaces.

What should I do if I think my child has H1N1?
Step back and think about your childs symptoms. Is he or she experiencing a combination of a fever over 100 degrees F, a cough and a sore throat or other signs? If your child has multiple symptoms, its time to call the doctor. Your childs primary care physician or nurse can give you guidance about whether you need medical attention, like an office visit or a trip to the ER. Many people who come down with H1N1 will recover without needing medical treatment. Theyll need to drink lots of fluids, though, and will have to lay low away from others. If you take your child to the ER or doctor, make sure to tell the staff immediately about his symptoms so they can give him a mask to wear.

Are there emergency warning signs for H1N1 in children?
Yes. The CDC recommends urgent medical attention for children who have the following symptoms:

* Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
* Skin color that is bluish or gray
* Not drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated
* Severe or persistent vomiting
* Not awaking or not interacting with others
* Being so irritable the child refuses to be held
* Flu-like symptoms that improve but later return with fever and a worse cough

What should I do if my child does have seasonal flu or H1N1? How do I care for him?
Its a good idea to come up with a plan ahead of time. Think about whether a parent or other family member can take time off work to be with your children if they get H1N1. Children with H1N1 or seasonal flu wont be able to return to school until they are symptom-free for 24 hours. If your child has been diagnosed with H1N1, its important to keep him or her home from school so more germs arent passed around. Be sure to wash your own hands, as well as your childs, constantly. Your doctor will give you the best instructions on how to treat the disease. The options may include prescribing antiviral drugs (pills, liquid syrup, or an inhaler) in severe cases. Children should not take aspirin or aspirin-containing products because they put them at risk for Reyes syndrome. All patients with H1N1 will need to drink lots of fluids like water and Gatorade. You can find more tips at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm

What can I do to keep my family safe from H1N1?
Here are some good tips from the CDC:

* Wash your hands as frequently as you can especially after you sneeze or cough. You can use good-old-fashioned soap and water (scrub well!) or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

* Stay informed! Read up on new information about H1N1 because the situation will change all the time. The best information will be at www.cdc.gov.

* Make sure to cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue that you throw away immediately.

* Dont touch your eyes, nose and mouth. This is how germs spread.

* Stay away from people who are sick.

* If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone away except to seek medical attention. Stay away from others as much as you can so you dont get them sick, too.
Read more atarkansasmatters.com.