Featuring content from MediResource Inc.
Since H1N1 is a relatively new virus, the extent to which it will spread and infect during the back-to-school season remains unknown. Like the seasonal flu we know and dread, H1N1 spreads via coughs, sneezes, and touching the nose or mouth after touching objects that have been touched by others with the virus.
And like the seasonal flu, the H1N1 virus can cause fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and weakness. In some cases, it may trigger gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Once infected, a person can be contagious from 1 day before symptoms appear to about 7 days after. Most schools allow children to return to class once fevers have been gone for 24 hours.
Schools (and universities) will have plans in place for handling H1N1, but the best way to protect your children from illness is to teach them the importance of prevention.
Tell your child to do the following:
Sneeze smart and cough cautiously. When you sense a sneeze or cough coming, you need to protect other people from your germs. Always sneeze and cough into your elbow, your sleeve, or a tissue. Don't use your hands, though, because the germs will then be all over your fingers and you might spread them to the things you touch – like your classroom doorknob or the crayons and pencils you share with classmates. If you accidentally cough or sneeze into your hands, be sure to wash your hands right away! If you can't make it to a sink with soap and water, you can squeeze a couple of drops of hand sanitizer into your hands.
Keep your hands to yourself – and off yourself. Kids touch lots of things all day – like doors, school desks, pencils, crayons – and each other! And when you touch things, you get germs all over your fingers. Then when you touch your fingers or hands to your face, you put the germs on your own skin. Those germs can make you sick. That's why it is so important to wash your hands well. Oh, and did you notice that kids touch their faces more often than adults do? Not to mention the nose-picking, eye-rubbing, and finger-chewing that goes on! Eww! So try your best to not touch your face – especially your nose, eyes, and mouth. Also, don't share foods, drinks, or straws with friends, because that's another way that germs can spread.
Tell someone if you're not feeling well. You may want to be tough and not miss out on any school. But if you're feeling sick, you might get other people sick, including your friends, your teacher, and your family. So, if you notice that your throat hurts, if you're coughing a lot, or if you feel hot or achy, tell your teacher or your family as soon as you can. You may have to miss some school, but you will get better faster at home, and you won't spread your germs to others.
If your child does come down with the H1N1 flu, don't panic. Most illness from H1N1 has been mild and children have recovered quickly. Those children with underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for complications or more severe symptoms. Keep children home from school and have these home care tips in mind.
- Teach your children the steps to a thorough hand-washing.
- Show your children how to properly and safely use hand sanitizer.
- Consider having your child immunized against the different flu viruses.