With summer winding down and schools preparing to reopen, another possible H1N1 virus outbreak poses a threat to the 6-24 year old age group which the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has targeted as being at high risk for contracting the virus.
At this time, the CDC does not consider novel H1N1 “swine” flu to be more dangerous than other types of seasonal flu, but it does state that the disease burden of swine flu is greater on young people.
Dr. Martha Howard offers parents her advice for effective ways to protect children from getting the disease.
Avoid close contact with sick people. Dr. Howard advises children carry tissues and hand sanitizer, and know how to use them: Sneeze or cough into the tissue, throw it in the wastebasket (not on the desk); Put a dime size blob of hand sanitizer on hands and rub together until dry. She also warns against children sharing drinks or food, and not to touch their eyes nose or mouth with their hands.
Vaccination Precautions Dr. Howard says it is not wise to receive swine flu vaccination for grade school children at this time. “There are generally about 100 child deaths per year in the United States from flu. Even if that is doubled by swine flu, I do not feel it is worth the risk of exposing your child to possible long-term problems with immunity,” she reports.
- The vaccines being developed are to contain the “adjuvant”—a chemical that induces greater immune response—squalene, which is known to cause a harmful immune response in rats resembling rheumatoid arthritis.
- There are currently no other vaccines containing squalene that have been approved for use in the United States.
Natural and Homeopathic Alternatives A recent study reported in American Family Physician Journal (August 2009), showed that elderly patients taking 600 milligrams of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) twice daily over the flu season were much less likely to have clinical influenza illness (29% vs. 51% of controls), and when they did have it, episodes were much less severe. In addition, cell mediated immunity was improved in the people receiving NAC, and not in the controls.
Dr. Howard recommends giving children N-acetylcysteine in a dose that is proportional by weight to the adult dose of 600 milligrams twice a day. (A 70 pound child would be given 300 milligrams twice a day. A 35 pound child would be given 150 milligrams twice a day, and so on. For children under 2, consult a physician.)
Treatment for Children who Contract the Virus Dr. Howard recommends supportive treatment: rest, fluids, and Chinese herbs.
- The combination of two readily available formulas, Zhong Gan Ling and Yin Chiao Chieh Du Pian (both available online) is effective for treating flu.
- Keep children home if they are sick for 7 days after symptoms begin or until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
Emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention, according to the CDC:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough