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Health Tips for Parents

2009 Issues

How can I protect my child from swine flu?


Today’s headlines scream about swine flu while government agencies and schools try to educate people about symptoms and prevention. All this public attention can be unsettling for parents as well as children.

How do I protect my child from swine flu?Swine flu is caused by a newly identified strain of the H1N1 virus. Swine flu is normally spread between pigs and to people who have close contact with pigs. What is different in this outbreak is that there is human-to-human transmission in people who have had no contact with pigs. According to Larry Baraff, M.D., UCLA pediatrician and emergency physician, preliminary examination of the virus’ genetic structure indicates that this virus lacks genes that have been associated with influenza viruses that have caused severe illness in the past. “We are hopeful that this outbreak will not result in widespread or severe disease,” he says. In fact, it is expected that this outbreak will be less serious than during a normal flu season. Yvonne Bryson, M.D., chief of pediatric infectious disease at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA is quick to point out that even if the flu spreads rapidly, federal and state governments have plans in place to deal with an outbreak. “At UCLA, we have disaster preparedness plans with specific isolation rooms and antiviral drugs for those who are ill,” she says.

Symptoms of the 2009 H1N1 flu are similar to most influenza. These include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. The H1N1 virus may also cause upper respiratory symptoms, and occasionally pneumonia. Parents should monitor their child closely if he or she exhibits these symptoms and contact their child’s physician. Some antiviral medicines, already used to treat flu symptoms, may be helpful with this virus strain and have been recently approved for young children.

Take precautions:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaners
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Offer masks to persons who are coughing
  • Isolate persons with flu-like symptoms from others
  • If you get sick, stay home from school
  • Drink lots of fluids and control fevers
  • Do not give children medications that contain aspirin

Talking to children

Parents can help ease their children’s fears by sharing the most up-to-date facts about the flu with them. According to Dr. Bryson, parents and children should know that the entire medical community as well as state and federal governments are on high alert to prevent any outbreaks and are well prepared to treat cases.



This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

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