November 21, 2009


You can’t get through the day without reading or hearing something about the H1N1 flu. There’s so much discussion, information and misinformation about the current and seasonal flu, that it can be overwhelming.

Your children may ask your opinion about whether or not to vaccinate. Regardless of your opinion, ultimately, it’s their decision. However, we, as grandparents and great-grandparents need to be aware of OUR OWN health during this pandemic. Our own physical health is critically important, especially if we’re in contact with or caring for our grandchildren. Although all the data shows that children are most at risk, this is a time for us to be conscious of our health, our day-to-day energy, and how we can help prevent the spread of any nasty flu that’s out there.

Without sounding like a nagging parent, here are some tried and true basics, as stated by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention):
1. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. (Or, as we tell the kids, sneeze or cough into your elbow).
2. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
4. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
5. If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
6. While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

NOW we’d like to add these few things that really are JUST FOR YOU:
**Drink plenty of water.
**Eat healthy foods to maintain your well being.
**Get the much needed rest you need.
**Don’t be afraid to beg off of grandparenting duty if you’re feeling under the weather…the goal is to keep the kids free of illness.

So, the bottom line is, do everything you can to “flee the flu” (say this three times really fast). Remember that you’re part of the solution when you take care of yourself!

If your grandchildren do get sick, here are some favorite quiet things to do for:

Quiet activities for preschool age and under:
**Listen to recorded stories and music.
**Read age appropriate books.
**Use colorful straws to encourage drinking of liquids.
**Using a large cardboard box or a kid sized tent, create a special “resting area” with favorite pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals.
**Make frozen popsicles using juice.
**Provide a new set of stickers, a box of crayons and paper that can be used on a bed table.
**Put stickers each day on a calendar to record the number of sick days.
**Have some age appropriate toys that can be used in or around the resting and sleeping area (small cars, trucks & trains, dolls, stuffed animals, etc.).

Quiet activities for school age children:
**Read age appropriate books.
**Listen to recorded stories and music.
**Help with homework that is outstanding.
**Create a “sick diary” using stickers, markers, a journal, etc.
**Create a “Today I Feel Like” journal, where the child can make faces showing how they feel on that day.
**Have some age appropriate jigsaw puzzles (even simple crossword puzzles are fun).
**Create collages made from cut up magazines.
**Allow the child to sleep in a homemade or store bought tent and provide a flashlight.
**Make frozen popsicles using juice.

Last, but not least, below is some critical information about when to take a sick child to the emergency room, as reported in the L.A. Times, on 11-21-09:

"So when should you take your child to the emergency room? Doctors say parents and guardians should assess how sick a child is in part based on experience.'Is there something really different about your child that's different from the seven or eight viral infections your kid gets every year? Those are the changes to look out for,' said Dr. Mark Morocco, associate residency director for emergency medicine at UCLA.

Warning signs include:
**significant difficulty breathing,

**change in the color of the mouth or lips,

**inability to drink fluids or urinate for more than six hours,

**or unusual behavioral changes, such as a crying child who cannot be consoled, or a child who doesn’t wake up or walk or talk normally.

If any of those symptoms show up in children, parents should take them to the emergency room, Morocco said, noting that "respiratory infections are often things that are the most life-threatening in children."

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