Learning about the swine flu virus was scary enough this past spring, when it made headlines for the first time. Summer has given the nation a bit of a reprieve in terms of new cases diagnosed, but health experts say that the virus is poised for an aggressive comeback in the fall, just when children will be settling back into their school routines. And despite hundreds of schools nationwide shutting their doors as a precautionary measure when the virus first surfaced, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is hoping to minimize school closings this fall by recommending that schools stay open unless a significant number of students or faculty fall ill. How can you keep your child safe from the swine flu in this back-to-school season?

  • Err on the side of caution. If your child seems under the weather, be safe and keep him home. That means not only no school, but no extracurricular activities either. If someone in your home is sick with swine flu, it's important to keep everyone home for a few days to minimize the spread of the disease.
  • Practice good hygiene. Teach your child to cover her nose and mouth with a tissue when she sneezes or coughs, or cough and sneeze into the crook of her arm if no tissue is available. Hand washing is a must several times a day, especially after coughing or sneezing. Keep hands away from eyes, noses, and mouths.
  • Keep germs at bay. Wipe down computer keyboards and mice, as well as desk surfaces and chairs, with antibacterial solution. This is particularly important if your children share work spaces. Consider separating children who spend a lot of time in close proximity to each other-for instance, move desks apart or have one child bunk in another room for a few weeks. And stay away from crowds or from anyone who seems sick. Face masks can't hurt, but the CDC says it's more important to avoid close contact with sick people and to wash hands than to don a face mask.
  • Have a backup plan. If the worst happens and you or your children contract swine flu, be ready. Have several days' worth of supplies stockpiled in the house, and stay in contact with your pediatrician. If everyone is healthy at home but your children's' school or child-care center closes, you may need to work from home. Talk to your office about that possibility or team up with other affected parents to share child care duties.


Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org