"How do I protect my child?" That's the No. 1 question parents have when it comes to swine flu.
To help guide parents, WebMD turned to three pediatricians for answers to common questions about swine flu. Are some children more at risk than others? Should you take your kids out of school if there are cases of swine flu in your town? What are the symptoms of swine flu in children?
What should parents do to protect their children from swine flu?
"Be vigilant, and watch your children closely," says Joseph Bocchini, MD, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Disease. Bocchini is also chairman of the department of pediatrics at Louisiana State University. "Follow the usual recommended procedures for reducing risk of transmission of infection. That means frequent hand-washing. Avoid large crowds. Avoid direct contact with sick individuals. If sick, children should stay home. So should parents." And have your children vaccinated.
What if you’re out, at work, or at a playground?
"If you are out in public and someone has a cough, you should stay away from that individual," Bocchini says. And people should cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze. Wash your hands or use alcohol based hand sanitizers frequently. Avoid touching your face with your hands.
How do you know whether to be concerned in your own area?
While the CDC and AAP web sites will track national flu trends, it's up to state and local health departments to monitor flu in your community. It's important to pay attention to local media and to your local health department's web site. If you haven't done so already, teach your children how to wash their hands thoroughly and often -- and teach them to cough and sneeze into their elbow, not onto their hands.
It's always a good idea to keep children away from sick people. And if you learn that flu has become widespread in your community, you may wish to keep your child away from crowds or crowded situations -- especially if the child is under age 5 or if a child of any age has asthma or a chronic medical condition that increases risk of severe flu disease.
What’s the most important thing parents should do now?
"Follow the usual precautions. Start thinking about what you would do if the child’s school or day care center is shut down," Bocchini says. "Think about what arrangements you would make to be able to stay home with children. That may mean you need to stock up on supplies, food, and make arrangements for child care. Parents should start thinking about this now."
What advice do you have for parents with children in school?
"We know that right now we don’t have to close schools and stop movies and do other things to prevent infection except in those areas where cases have been reported. Based on finding of the virus in a certain areas, authorities may close day care centers and public events. But parents should not take children out of day care or school unless the public health authorities have recommended such a step," he says.