Decide whether to keep the child home. It’s ultimately up to you to make the judgment call as to whether your child has the common cold or the flu. Some people think that the difference between a cold and the flu is a fever, but many people who contracted the 2009 H1N1 flu (hereafter referred to by its more popular name, the swine flu) never had a fever. Ideally, you should keep your child home if there is any sneezing, coughing, sore throat, or any of the other symptoms of a common cold. Weigh out whether or not to take your child to a doctor, because most physicians aren’t testing for swine flu.
However, be sure to watch for signs of infection and distress. If your child has a history of bronchial or asthmatic conditions, be sure to have your child on controller medication.
The only way you can be reasonably sure your child doesn’t have the swine flu is if he or she got the complete swine flu vaccine, and their immune system has had a chance to protect itself. Children are protected from swine flu starting 10 days after their last required dose. Children over 10 only need one dose, but children under 10 need two, 21 days apart. So if it hasn’t been 10 days after your child’s last required dose, he or she might still have contracted the swine flu.
Isolate your child until the symptoms subside. The most important thing is to make sure your child doesn’t spread the virus. Practice good hygiene, and teach the child to do the same, if they are old enough. Whether the child has the common cold, the seasonal flu, or the swine flu, it’s best to keep the virus contained. Even if the child doesn’t have the swine flu, his or her immune system will be kept busy by the cold or seasonal flu virus, making them more susceptible to the swine flu. That’s why it’s important to limit your child’s contact with people (including you and others in the household)–both for their protection, and that of everyone else.
If you’re especially vulnerable to swine flu, like if you’re pregnant or have a compromised immune system, you should see if you can get someone else to take care of the child. Likewise, it’s especially important to keep the sick child as isolated as possible from young adults and other children (who seem to be particularly vulnerable to swine flu) in the household, or anyone else who is considered especially vulnerable. Even if you get vaccinated immediately, there are still about 10 days before the vaccine kicks in.
Nurse the child to health. The following tips will help your child recover faster:
Give fluids to make sure your child is properly hydrated. These can include tea, broth, diluted fruit juice, or water. Make sure there is nutritional value in some of the liquids
Chicken soup is traditionally considered helpful. For the full benefit, use chicken stock, not “chicken flavored soup”.
Allow your child to rest. Make him or her comfortable, and keep the room quiet enough to allow naps. If your child is awake, offer some calm activities he or she can do in bed, such as coloring or reading.
Monitor your child’s temperature with a home thermometer. Young children have difficulties regulating body temperature, and may require intervention if the fever runs too high. If this happens, give mild fever reducers designed for children. This will help reduce fever and inflammation, and make your child more comfortable. Remember; do not give a child under the age of 19 aspirin or salicylate containing products as this may trigger Reye’s Syndrome.
Get your child immediate medical attention if he or she exhibits any of the following:
fast breathing or trouble breathing
bluish or gray skin color
not drinking enough fluids
severe or persistent vomiting
not waking up or interacting
so irritable that he does not want to be held
flu like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough
Get yourself immediate medical attention if you (or any of the adults in the house) exhibit any of the following:
difficulty breathing or chest pain
purple or blue discoloration of the lips
vomiting and inability to keep liquids down
signs of dehydration, such as feeling dizzy when standing or being unable to urinate