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Keeping Them Safe Without Scaring Them Silly: How to Talk to Kids About Swine Flu (page 2)

Keeping Them Safe Without Scaring Them Silly: How to Talk to Kids About Swine Flu

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Updated on May 27, 2014

Myth 3: You can get swine flu from eating pork. The truth: The virus travels through the coughs and sneezes of people infected with the virus. People may also become get swine flu by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouths or noses. Health officials stress that handwashing is the number one way to protect yourself from swine flu.

Myth 4: Flu shots make you sick. The truth: Flu shots, including the new vaccine being developed for swine flu, don’t use the live virus. Amy Garcia, RN, Executive Director of the National Association of School Nurses, says if you are planning to give your child the swine flu vaccine when it comes out (most likely in October) you should not tell her in advance. “And parents should not be asking their children 'do you want a shot?'. Instead, explain that you are doing this for her health,” she says. If a child asks questions about how vaccines work, Garcia suggests explaining that a vaccine is a way to help your body not get the flu.

The main point is to give kids just enough of the right kind of information. Here are some additional points on how to talk to kids about swine flu without scaring them silly:

Keep it normal. The best way to reassure a child who may be anxious about the swine flu pandemic is to keep the routine as normal as possible. That may be difficult given the changes likely to take place at home and at school as a result of swine flu prevention measures. Be sure to talk to your child about these new measures so they can be prepared. “If school nurses are wearing masks, school events are canceled, or other unusual events occur, children may be confused or anxious,” O’Neill says.“Parents can inform children that these actions are being taken to protect them from getting sick. A person may pass on the virus to others without knowledge or intent, so it is better to put precautions in place to prevent the spread of the illness."

Empower your child. To allay your child's fears, make her part of the solution by teaching her the tricks to preventing the spread of the virus. “Children will be more resilient to crisis if they have something they can do to help,” O’Neill says. Here are some ways your child can keep her community healthy:

  • Wash your hands well by using plenty of soap and water, and scrubbing them long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself twice.
  • Don’t have a tissue, but need to cough or sneeze? Do it in your elbow or shoulder.
  • Don’t share drinks. The rule, coined by school nurse Mary Pappas (who discovered the first case of swine flu in New York) is: “If it’s wet and it’s not yours, don’t touch it.”
  • If you don’t feel well, stay home from school.
  • Give your overall health a boost, by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of sleep.
  • An additional nice thing? Make a card for someone who is sick.
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