As it turns out, the swine flu has been sort of a non-event—at least so far. But it’s only January, and all those hardy viruses are still out there just waiting to pounce—especially on your child and all those other coughing, sneezing friends of his seated side-by-side in crowded classrooms.
All the more reason to take preventative measures, making sure your child washes her hands frequently and uses sanitizing gel in between times. Eating well, getting plenty of sleep, gargling with plain water a couple of times a day, and limiting sugar are all effective at warding off colds and the flu, too. A dose of vitamin C every day wouldn’t hurt either.
And get the whole family immunized against H1N1 if you haven’t already. Flu shots are available at pharmacies and supermarkets throughout Montgomery County, as well as periodically in county health clinics.
But despite these efforts, the odds are good that some germ or other will still find its way into your child, so be prepared.
It all begins with school. Your son or daughter should already have enlisted a classmate or two to call in case of an absence, so that all missed work is collected and either brought to your house or left on the main office counter for you to pick up at the end of the day. Calling that friend is job #1.
Job #2 is making sure you’re sick-child ready on the home front. After all, there’s nothing worse than hearing your child call for you in the middle of the night—head hot, in a sweat, and complaining about a sore throat—only to discover that you’re out of Tylenol and throat spray.
• Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
• Aspirin-, alcohol-, and sugar-free throat spray
• Vitamin C
• Menthol cough drops
• Cool mist humidifier
• Saline nose drops or spray
Keep in mind that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises against giving cold and cough medications to children under six, as they can have serious side effects in the very young. Moreover, most cold and flu symptoms dissipate on their own without them. If they don’t in a week, call your doctor.
And, in the event that the doctor recommends putting your child on an over-the-counter cold and/or cough remedy, follow the dosing instructions to the letter and use the dropper, dosing cup, or dosing spoon that comes with it—not a teaspoon.
Then take these simple measures to ensure that your child is comfortable and quickly on the mend:
1. Use such pain relievers as acetaminophen and ibuprofen—never aspirin, as it can cause Reye’s syndrome in youngsters, a rare but serious disease.
2. Do NOT use ibuprofen in children under six months.
3. Use saline drops/spray to ease nasal congestion.
4. Keep your child well-hydrated by having him drink plenty of liquids, thus helping to thin the mucus.
5. Offer chicken noodle soup and tea with honey—good medicine on both counts.
6. Ease coughing with a hot, steamy shower—or seat her nearby—to loosen nasal and chest congestion.
7. Add moisture to the air with a cool mist humidifier running at night—a natural decongestant—but be sure to clean it often and thoroughly. If not, it will blow fungus, bacteria, and mold into the air.
The rest of the story is that, although initially your sick child will love the idea of missing school, staying in pajamas all day, and watching a bit more television than the usual, boredom is likely brewing.
Head it off by having on hand a new puzzle or two and a few as yet unread books, as well as such items as coloring and activity books, drawing paper, crafts, playing cards, and simple games like Candyland.
Building a fort out of pillows and blankets is always fun, too, and nothing beats cuddling together.
But once your child is feeling up to it, making up that collected missed schoolwork must be a priority. See that it all gets done; otherwise he’ll fall way behind his classmates and never really catch up. That’s when times really get tough.
For more information: visit www.h1n1inpa.com or call 1-877-PAHEALTH.