by Phil Stott It's back to school week in my house, which means my wife has been busy getting her classroom in order, while Maeve has started back at daycare. In addition to all the usual preparations, we've been making sure that we're up to date on information concerning swine flu-an ailment that the media isn't hyping as badly as it did in the Spring, but one that we're still a little concerned about, particularly as Meghan is pregnant. In the course of gathering information, I've come across a number of suggestions for what we should be doing to be prepared, and what we need to tell our kids. I've condensed the most level-headed of them into the following list: 1) Wash your hands. Every time I read that piece of advice I think about how painfully obvious it is, and wonder why we need to be reminded. Then I go the bathroom at work and watch as guys come in, do their business, and then leave without once approaching the sink. If they're not willing to use a bit of soap and water after handling their penis, then what chance them doing it after sneezing.* Teaching your kids to wash their hands thoroughly-and often-could be the difference between them contracting the virus and missing out on it. And even if they do get it-there's never a bad time to learn good hygiene. 2) Use hand sanitizer. I've heard a couple of different theories on this. The first says that sanitizers like Purell can be used instead of washing your hands. The second-which I've heard from a couple of medical professionals-says that it should only be used when hand-washing isn't an easy option. Regardless, for kids, it's probably enough to find out whether it's being provided at school and, if so, if it's alcohol-based or not. For kids, alcohol-free ones are probably a better bet, given that there's a greater possibility of a trip to the emergency room if they ingest the ones with alcohol in them 3) Sneeze into your arm, not your hand. I'm the world's worst offender on this one; any time I sneeze and there isn't a tissue within easy reach, I'm guaranteed to have to make a trip to a bathroom to rinse my hands afterward. If it happens to me on the subway, though, it's often a while before I get the opportunity, and I may well have to touch poles and door handles before the chance comes along. For kids, the CDC has been working hard on spreading this message, and has teamed up with none other than Elmo to do so. The furry red one also has a message for kids about the importance of hand washing, which can be found here. 4) Avoid sharing. I know, it goes against everything you want your kid to learn, but an important precaution is in avoiding sharing things that are likely to pass from one child's mouth to another. Things like snacks, cups and juice boxes are at the top of the list, but even toys should be considered for those with younger kids. 5) Talk to your kids. Explain to your kids how important it is that they tell you at the first sign of any illness. And, if they tell you, act on it. The majority of swine flu deaths among kids in the U.S. so far have been in cases where the child wasn't given the anti-viral Tamiflu. If your child is diagnosed with H1N1, insist on Tamiflu. 6) Talk to your kids' school. Even if you're not concerned about the H1N1 virus, it's important to know what procedures your child's school has in place should there be an outbreak, so you can plan accordingly. Here in New York, there were a rash of H1N1-related school closures in spring that lasted a week or more. Try to have a plan in place to deal with such an eventuality. 7) Don't panic. Above all else, don't get carried away. Current estimates suggest that more than 50 percent of Americans will contract swine flu this flu season, and that the vast majority of those will be absolutely fine. So don't panic, but do be prepared. Know what the symptoms are and figure out a plan for what to do if you or a member of your family comes down with ailment. Vaccinations are a good idea-as soon as they become available-as is thinking about whether or not you can take time off work if necessary, or if you've got someone who can help you out if you get laid low. *And before anyone comments, yes, I've heard the George Carlin theory on hand-washing. But what can I say: maybe he wasn't up on the science of hygiene. Or, y'know, maybe it's just harder to raise a laugh from coliform bacteria.
- Survival Guide
- RAISING SAVVY KIDS