News reports about the H1N1 virus might make you confused or worried. Because this is a new illness, the news covers what has happened and what could happen.
Last week, health officials announced that swine flu is most dangerous to kids and younger adults and is largely bypassing senior citizens. The information was based on swine flu hospitalizations and deaths since early September. The information comes from 28 states.
It showed that more than half of all people hospitalized were 24 and younger; more than a quarter were ages 5 to 18.
You'll hear more about H1N1, so we recommend a "just the facts" approach. In the meantime, keep those hands clean and be sure to tell your mom or dad if you have any concerns.
Wash your hands!
Worry won't keep you from getting the flu (or any infectious disease), but good hand-washing often can keep you healthy.
A virus is a germ, as you probably know, and germs are too small to be seen. Keeping your hands clean — and following other good habits like not sharing drinks and keeping your fingers out of your mouth, nose and eyes — can help protect you from germs.
Another way to be helpful is for sick people to stay home from school (if you're a kid) or work (if you're a grown-up).
Symptoms of H1N1 (swine) flu include a fever plus one or more of these:
■ Sore throat.
■ Runny nose.
■ Body aches.
A person who has the H1N1 virus also might throw up or have diarrhea.
Be sure to tell a parent if you're not feeling well. Most people who catch the H1N1 virus will get better on their own, but if someone has a medical condition, like asthma or diabetes, or is very sick and needs to be hospitalized, anti-viral medicine might help the person get better faster.
What to do
Here are steps you can take to stay well:
■ Avoid people who are sick (coughing, fever, etc.).
■ Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. That's how germs get in your body.
■ Don't drink out of the same cup or share utensils (forks, spoons) with other people.
Usually, we think about just one kind of flu during flu season. But this year, you'll hear about regular (or seasonal) flu and H1N1 (swine) flu. Seasonal flu is every year, and there's a vaccine for it. The H1N1 virus is new, and there's a vaccine for it, too.
Vaccines work because they give your body a little piece of the germ that causes an illness. It's enough to build your body's immunity without making you sick.
Medical experts recommend that all kids get the H1N1 vaccine. If you don't like needles, the vaccination also might be available as a mist. The nurse sprays a mist up your nose, and you're all set.
Your mom or dad can talk with your doctor about the H1N1 vaccine. Some kids, such as those with chronic conditions, should be first in line for the vaccine. Why? Because having other health problems can make it more likely H1N1 will make a kid quite sick.
But for most kids, the symptoms of H1N1 will be similar to seasonal flu. But who wants to feel rundown and awful? Getting the vaccine for both flus can keep you healthy and able to do all the stuff you like to do.
Still not happy about getting shots? Try this: Make your arm loose like spaghetti before the shot goes in. Relax your hand and fingers. The looser you are, the less the shot will hurt.
What to do if you feel sick
1. Tell your mom or dad, so they can check you out. They might want to call your doctor to talk about whether you have H1N1 or some other sickness.
2. Stay home from school and other crowded places. Also, try not to make other people in your family sick: Wash your hands often, cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow — not into your hands! — and keep your distance.
3. Get rest and drink plenty of fluids. Be sure to tell your mom or dad how you're feeling so they can take good care of you.
4. Return to school only when you're feeling better and no longer coughing/sneezing, and you haven't had a fever for at least 24 hours.
How to avoid H1N1
1. Get the H1N1 vaccine and get the seasonal flu vaccine, too.
2. Wash your hands regularly to avoid catching H1N1 (swine) flu or other illnesses. And keep your hands out of your mouth, nose and eyes.
3. If someone is sick (coughing or sneezing), keep your distance.
4. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, not into your hands.
5. If you are sick with the flu, stay home. Don't go to school or other places where you could spread the flu.
Should you go to school?
Have you ever gone to school when you didn't feel so well? Everyone probably has done it, but this year it's very important to stay home from school when you're sick.
Here's why: H1N1 (swine) flu is a new illness that could make some people very sick. So we want to do our best to keep it from spreading around. If you have flulike symptoms, home is where you should be.
By staying home from school (and away from crowds in general), you will be less likely to make other people sick. And if it turns out you do have H1N1, rest at home is what you need to get better.