Get Ready Kids’ Guide: Preparing for Pandemic Flu

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  • What is the flu?

    You may have had friends or family who have had the flu before -– maybe even you’ve gotten sick with it, too. There’s a flu season that comes every year, usually between October and March. For such a little virus, it can sure make you feel yucky! Sometimes people feel really sick with the flu, sometimes only a little sick. Some or all of these things can happen:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Runny nose
    • Really tired
    • Sore throat
    • Upset stomach
    • Headache
    • Aches

    To avoid getting seasonal flu, make sure you get a vaccination every single year. If you do get seasonal flu, it’s important to stay home from school and away from friends, get plenty of rest, drink lots of liquids and if you feel really bad, see your doctor.

    What is H1N1 (swine flu)?

    You may have heard your parents or people on TV talk about swine flu. Swine is another word for pigs. So swine flu is a type of flu that is normally found in pigs. When pigs are sick with the flu they have symptoms similar to humans, like cough, fever and runny nose. Normally people can’t catch swine flu, but every once in a while a person that is in close contact with pigs will get it.

    In 2009, people all around the world started getting sick with what doctors thought was swine flu at first. But after scientists did more research, they found out that what was actually making people sick was a whole new virus. This new virus, called H1N1, spreads from person-to-person just like the seasonal flu. Because so many people got sick around the world, scientists decided that there was a pandemic (say: pan-deh-mick).

    During a pandemic, people around the world get sick and spread the sickness to other people. If a flu pandemic hits where you live, you have to be ready. Your school or your parents’ work may be closed for awhile, and you may have to stay inside your home so that you don’t catch or spread disease. But don’t worry – there are lots of things you can do to help you and your family stay healthy.

    What is avian flu?

    Another type of flu you might have heard about it (say it: ay-vee-yan) flu. “Avian” just means relating to birds. The avian flu is a virus, called influenza (say it: in-flew-en-za), that birds and sometimes people get.

    Bird flu is different than seasonal flu in a number of ways. One way is how it is spread. You can get seasonal flu when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or leaves behind germs that you pick up. This is why it is so important to wash your hands because germs are everywhere and want one thing –- to make you sick!

    Bird flu is very, very rarely spread from person-to-person. Most often it is spread from a bird to a person who has a lot of direct contact with birds, such as a farmer who raises chickens. People who spend a lot of time around sick birds have gotten sick themselves. Bird flu has made people sick in countries around the world, such as Egypt, Vietnam and Indonesia.

    What can you do?

    This all may seem a little scary, but it shouldn’t be. The best way to not be scared is to be careful, stay healthy and of course, get ready!

    Getting ready means talking to your parents and friends and putting together an emergency kit to use in case there is a flu pandemic (it’s good to have an emergency kit on hand for other emergencies as well, such as hurricanes, tornadoes or big snowstorms). Here are some things you can start doing now to get ready:

    Create a pandemic flu emergency kit

    If there is a flu pandemic, schools may be closed and many other places –- such as grocery stores, playgrounds and malls -– may be closed as well. You may need to stay at home for quite a while to keep yourself healthy. That’s why it’s important to stock your kit with food and water. Make sure all food items are non-perishable, which means you don’t need to keep them in the refrigerator. Look for canned foods such as soups, fruits, vegetables, beans and meats, especially the ready-to-eat kinds just in case you can’t cook! Granola bars are great, too.

    Here’s a list of other good ideas for food in your kit:

    • Crackers
    • Canned juice
    • Dried fruit
    • Peanut butter or nuts
    • Sports drinks
    • Protein or fruit bars
    • Jars of baby food (if you have a younger brother or sister!)
    • Pet food (don’t forget about your favorite animals!)

    Get a two-week supply of water, with one gallon per person per day. (That means if there are three people in your family, you will need 42 gallons, for example.) People who keep our tap water clean may not be able to go to work if pandemic flu comes, but you’ll still need clean water! Don’t forget to have enough for drinking as well as for brushing your teeth, cooking food and washing your hands.

    Medicine will be important as well. Include plenty of cold medicine, vitamins and tummyache medicines in your kit. Ask your parents to help you make a list of medicines you use most often so that in case you’re stuck at home for a while, you won’t be without them.

    Here are some other great ideas for kit items:

    • Soap and alcohol-based sanitizer
    • Medicines for fever
    • Thermometer
    • Flashlight
    • Candles and matches
    • Batteries
    • Portable radio
    • Manual can opener
    • Garbage bags
    • Tissues, toilet paper, disposable diapers
    • Paper plates and utensils

    One last piece of your kit is the most important: Have your parents create an emergency contact sheet and a health information sheet for each family member. When they fill these out, your kit will be complete!

    With so many things, you might need a checklist to make sure you have it all. Print this checklist and make sure you check off everything as you put it in your kit. Then keep it with your kit and check all items regularly to make sure they’re still good!

    Create a comfort pack

    If you have to be at home for a while, you’re going to want something to make you feel better. It’s important to create a comfort pack full of all your favorite things and activities you like to do.

    Your comfort pack isn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s because you like different things. Here are some ideas of what you can put in yours, but feel free to add anything else:

    • Favorite books
    • Coloring books and crayons
    • Favorite board game
    • Puzzles
    • Favorite stuffed animal

    Stay healthy!

    One of the best ways to stay healthy is to wash your hands — every time you go to the bathroom, before you eat, when you come in from playing outside or whenever you feel they’re dirty. Washing your hands sends all those nasty germs that want to make you sick down the sink. You should wash your hands for 20 seconds each time. If you don’t know how long that is, sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice all the way through — that’s 20 seconds!

    Though it is not proven to protect you from flu, a great way to stay healthy is to eat healthy. Fresh fruits and veggies have a lot of vitamins in them to make you strong. Try to eat as many colors a day as you can — red tomatoes, yellow bananas, green lettuce, blue blueberries, orange oranges — the list of options is long…and tasty!

    Getting plenty of sleep at night and exercising are also good ways to stay healthy. If you do get sick, be kind to your friends and stay away from them. You don’t want them getting sick too! Cough and sneeze into tissues to protect others, and when you do wash your hands before touching anything.

    As much as scientists and doctors are doing to prepare for the flu, you can do your part as well. Remember what you’ve read and share it with your friends and family. We all can do our part to get ready!