Flu Shots: Preparing and Comforting your Child
Preparing Your Family for a Flu Emergency
What should you do in case the swine flu outbreak causes even more serious consequences? Learn how to create a plan for your family.
By Karen Asp
Medically Reviewed by Ed Zimney, MD
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If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes, you're used to assembling an emergency kit and having a family plan in case disaster strikes. Yet with a flu outbreak, like the one currently happening, do you need to make similar preparations? What if, for instance, schools and public gathering places close and you're forced to stay inside your home? Even worse, what if one of the family members in your house gets the swine flu? Here's what you need to know to make sure you and your family are ready in case of a swine flu emergency.
For starters, assembling an emergency kit like one you'd prepare for severe weather may not be a bad idea, no matter what the situation, says Christian Sandrock, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California Davis Medical Center, deputy health officer of Yolo County in California, and an expert in infectious diseases and pulmonary and critical care medicine. Stock your kit with food, water, soap, alcohol-based hand rubs, and other essential supplies.
More importantly, though, if anybody in your family has a chronic illness and is taking medication for that illness, stock up on medication now. "If the swine flu continues to spread, the last thing you want to do is refill medications at a pharmacy or a doctor's office where you'll be exposed to sick people," Sandrock says. Instead, take precautions now and keep extra medicine on hand. Make sure you have a supply of over-the-counter cough/cold and pain medication too.
Then create a family plan so you know how you're going to handle things if you're forced to make last-minute decisions. For instance, if you and your spouse both work, decide who will take care of your children if the schools close due to a swine flu outbreak. Make sure that your children and their schools have your latest contact information and most current phone numbers.
Also, think about what you'll do if one member of your household contracts the swine flu. How will you quarantine that person so the rest of your family isn't exposed? How will you care for that person?
The CDC advises keeping the sick person away from other people as much as possible. If possible, place the family member in a room away from common areas in your house, perhaps in a guest room with its own bathroom, preferably one that nobody else will be using. Then disinfect the bathroom daily. Remind the individual infected with swine flu to cover her mouth when she coughs and to wash her hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub frequently, especially after sneezing or coughing. Sneeze into a tissue whenever possible, dispose of the tissue immediately and wash or disinfect your hands. A person with swine flu should not leave the house with a fever; adults should remain inside at least seven days after the onset of symptoms, although children may need to stay home longer. If the sick person has to leave the house or will be around other household members, have him or her wear a properly fitted surgical mask.
Knowing how to respond right now is tough, especially because medical experts and researchers are still learning about the swine flu. But at the very least, if you stock up on medications you need and create a family plan now, you'll be ready if a swine flu emergency occurs.
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