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Parent’s guide to swine flu –

September 2, 2009

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, visited a children’s ER recently to find out first hand what is happening there concerning H1N1.

In short, I wanted to create a parents’ guide to dealing with the swine flu that is based on the best science and my interviews with experts all over the country, he said in a report on CNN.

Point 1. As things stand now, the vast majority of children who develop flu-like symptoms this fall will have a few miserable days, and nothing more. And those days are best spent at home — not in the ER or a doctor’s office.

Point 2. If you are worried, you should call your pediatrician’s office first. Don’t take your child in without calling. Two reasons: Your child may not have H1N1, but could become exposed by being around sick children. And, after several hours of waiting, you are still likely to be told the basics — plenty of fluids, rest and dose-appropriate acetaminophen for a fever. After all, it is still the flu we are talking about. Dr. Gupta talks preparedness with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius »

Point 3. One doctor told me a way to think about things that was helpful. He said “remove the term H1N1 from the equation.” If your child had regular flu, would you take him to the hospital? If the answer is no, then don’t take him/her to the hospital now.

Point 4. Yes, hearing between 30,000 and 90,000 could die from H1N1 is scary, but keep in mind — around 40,000 people die from the regular or seasonal flu every year. The numbers may not be that much different, yet there is not panic about the regular flu. As things look now, H1N1 is causing only mild to moderate illness, not the widespread deaths people are worried about.

Point 4. There are some children who should be seen by their doctor. Call your doctor if:

• A baby younger than 12 weeks has a fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit

• A child, older than 12 weeks has a fever for three days

• A child’s fever returns after a 12-24 hour time period

• A child is not passing urine or making tears for more than six hours

• A child does not smile or show interest in playing for several hours

Dial 911 if:

• A child cannot speak while trying to breathe

• Has a blue or dark purple color to the nail beds, lips or gums

• Is not responding to you because he is too tired or weak

One point that was reinforced to me over and over again by the pediatricians is the best place for a sick child is at home, said Gupta. And, with regard to school — after 24 fever-free hours without the aid of medications, he or she can go back.

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