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Tips for parents

Flu season is never fun, but the spread of the H1N1 pandemic has sparked substantial worry and concern among parents across Canada who are wondering how to keep their children illness-free - and what to do if they end up sick. Most cases of this year's flu are mild, but there are things parents can do to protect their children and prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Explain the concept of germs and how they can spread to your child so they understand the importance of hand-washing and good hygiene.
  • Teach them to properly wash their hands, using warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If they are unable, wash their hands for them. If their hands aren't visibly dirty, they can use hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of between 60 to 90 per cent, with adult supervision.
  • Teach them to cough or sneeze into their arm, not their hand. If they aren't old enough, cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and immediately throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
  • Disinfect objects and common surfaces, including toys, doorknobs, telephones, keyboards and light switches.
  • If your child is sick, keep them home from daycare, school or other activities. Wait until they are symptom-free for at least one day before they return to normal activities. Keep sick children away from other children while they have symptoms.
  • Immunization is the best defence against contracting the H1N1 virus. If your child is older than six months of age, doctors recommend they receive the vaccine.
  • Antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, can be given to people with moderate to severe cases of H1N1.
  • Make sure they have a plenty of rest, fluids, nutritious food and a smoke-free environment.
  • Children with fever should not be given Aspirin because of a link to Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal disease.
  • If they experience certain symptoms, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, a bluish or grey complexion, severe or persistent vomiting, extreme lethargy, disorientation or symptoms that fade and reappear, seek immediate medical attention.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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