How to prevent the spread of swine flu
Flu-shot primer

It's important that children receive a flu shot (or the inhaled flu mist) for the seasonal flu, which is the flu that circulates every year. Those vaccinations are already available — either from your doctor's office or by going to mini-clinics at local pharmacies. That shot will keep your child from getting the seasonal flu, but it does not guard against swine flu.

Because the H1N1 swine flu seems to be striking most often in people younger than 25, the CDC recommends that children and young people get the swine-flu vaccination when it becomes available. The CDC is currently estimating that the vaccine will be ready in mid-October.

Risky business

Are you at high risk for swine flu? Those with asthma, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease appear to be more susceptible to the swine flu — as are people who are obese. Because swine flu may cause secondary infections — such as pneumonia — people at high risk may want to get a pneumonia vaccine, too, Tierno said.

Memo to parents

If your child contracts swine flu, limit his contact with others. Don't let him lounge on the sofa in the living room where he's likely to be in close contact with other family members. Instead, keep the child in a separate room — preferably one with a bathroom. That way, you don't have to disinfect the bathroom several times a day. Your child should stay home at least seven days, even if he feels better sooner, to reduce chances of spreading the flu.

To mask or not to mask?

Although disposable masks are popular in Asia, you're unlikely to see millions of Americans walking around with masks on their faces. However, if your child gets sick and you're the primary caregiver, the CDC recommends that you wear a respiratory mask to reduce the chances of getting sick. (You can buy them at large pharmacies or medical-supply stores.)

Tips for teachers

When children leave the room and change classes, there's probably little time to wipe down desks with disinfectant. So use a spray disinfectant (such as Lysol or Clorox disinfecting spray) around the room, Tierno said. Choose a brand that has been shown to kill the flu virus.

When cleaning desks and lunchroom tables, skip the soap and water — because you won't use enough water to wash away the germs. Instead, use a disinfectant or alcohol-based wipes. Also, wipe down or spray doorknobs, keyboards and other frequently touched items in your classrooms, using disinfectants. Gym equipment should also be sanitized frequently.

Most important: If you suspect a child is sick, send him or her to the school nurse or the office immediately.