How to protect your family and children from swine flu

Swine flu panic continues to sweep the UK. We have daily news reports on tragic deaths, sharp-elbowed parents trying to get their kids the vaccine and much lamenting on the Government’s decision to scrap the flu jab campaign.

This year’s flu season has found swine flu to be one of the major strains of flu around. While many people remain blasé about what can be a mild illness, there have been many fatalities, including in children with no underlying health conditions.

BMJ publication, Best Health, have put forward advice for families to help protect themselves from catching the virus. It includes information on how to treat swine flu symptoms if they do.

Best Health have come up with the below advice based on the latest swine flu research:

The seasonal flu vaccine for 2010/2011 protects against swine flu and other types of seasonal flu and is unlikely to cause any serious side effects.

People with chronic diseases (like asthma or heart disease), people over 65, and pregnant women are all being encouraged to get vaccinated because they are more at risk of complications from flu.

Treatments that are likely to work if you have swine flu are the antiviral medicines oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). These medicines are not a cure for flu, but they may cut the time you are ill by about one day and you may be less likely to get complications from flu, such as pneumonia, although the evidence about this is not clear.

If you’re pregnant and you suspect you have flu, you should call your doctor immediately. It’s important for pregnant women with swine flu to start taking antiviral medicines as soon as possible.

Breastfeeding will help protect your baby against the virus, so you should carry on breastfeeding if you can, even if you get sick. You can continue to breastfeed while taking antiviral medicines.

For most children, symptoms of swine flu are similar to those in adults, and the disease is not likely to be severe. Children can also take antiviral medicines, on the advice of a doctor.

The best way to avoid catching swine flu (or any other type of cold or flu) is to wash your hands regularly with soap and hot water. Other sensible hygiene measures to help prevent the spread of swine flu are:

Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, using a tissue where possible

Dispose of used tissues quickly and sensibly

Clean regularly-touched hard surfaces (e.g. door handles and kitchen surfaces) frequently, using normal cleaning products

Make sure your children follow these hygiene rules

There is no evidence that wearing masks on the street, or while going about your daily business, will protect you against swine flu. Most masks are designed to stop you from passing on the germs you breathe out, not to stop germs getting in. Masks might be helpful if you have swine flu, to avoid giving it to people who are caring for you, or if you are caring for someone at home with swine flu.