Saturday, October 10, 2009

Helping Special Needs Kids Minimize the Risk of Contracting the Seasonal Flu & Swine Flu

Even though the swine flu is two words, these days it is as if it were a dirty four-letter word. If you have it or have had it, you know that people treat you as if you have the plague. Now, for you and I or people who are otherwise healthy, we are probably fine to catch it. But not so for many special needs kids especially those who are medically fragile or who have not-so-great immune systems. Knock on wood, I have had patients and relatives come down with it and even cough on my face as they were ill, and I still haven't caught it. Sure am glad I take my multi-vitamin and probiotics daily! Now, as sure as I type this I will start coughing and get body aches with a high fever, but I do think there are ways to minimize the chance that you catch it. Notice I said minimize, not a guarantee of not getting either kind of flu. I am not going to tell you anything awe inspiring that anyone else hasn't said: wash your hands many times throughout the day and after contact with a suspected or confirmed infected person, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, take your vitamins, eat healthy foods rich in vitamin C and anti-oxidants, etc, etc, etc.

But how can we minimize the risk of a kid with special needs getting either the swine flu or seasonal flu? Well, if you are a parent of a special needs child who is homebound, change clothes after coming home from work or the community, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, keep the house clean, and STAY away from hugging, kissing, or touching saliva if you have a fever, headache, body aches or any other symptoms. Doesn't this sound like common sense. You would think! But so many of us are so focused on caring for the children that we ignore a fever or body aches.

For children who aren't homebound, teach them to not lick/mouth on non-food items such as toys, because if they touch a toy after a sick child at preschool, church, or elsewhere has touched it, then "WHAMMO", the virus has a chance to attack the mouth! Teach the child to wash hands regularly or for the caregiver to remind and help the child wash hands. If you can avoid places with a bunch of children such as fast-food playgrounds, that might be smart to avoid during flu season. If you must go to those places, go at a slower time such as during the week as opposed to the weekend.

Getting the flu shot may be beneficial for some kids, but not an option for others. This may be due to allergic reactions to eggs or other vaccine ingredients. My children are allergic to eggs, so I can't really do much about that except to make sure they get lots of rest, water, fruits, and vegetables as well as supplements. This may help the immune system fight a potential invading virus. But if doing those things doesn't help your child, take him or her to the doctor at the first sign of the flu so Tamiflu (R) or other medications can be given if the doctor deems it necessary.

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