Not Freaking Out About the Swine Flu

With my new shorter-and-more-frequent blogwriting strategy, I had planned to post a few more times on Friday and maybe even over the weekend, especially since I wanted to catch up on posts around the asthma blogger neighborhood. I’ll be honest with you, though:

I got distracted by the swine flu.

To be even further honest, I’ve been quietly freaking out about the swine flu epidemic/possible pandemic on and off all weekend. Basically, I’ve been veering wildly from “Okay, well I’ll monitor this situation carefully, but there’s no need to panic” to OMG SWINE FLU. WE’RE ALL GOING DOWN.

But only in my head.

Rather than spread my own personal brand of crazy around the Internet by detailing on Asthma Mom my desire/half-formed intention to stash AG and the Steadfast Sidekick in a bubble somewhere for the next few months, reason prevailed and I went hiking instead. I even let AG go to a birthday party at one of those huge bowling alley/indoor family entertainment centers/petri dishes on Saturday night. However, I will admit to ignoring the radio because of the Don’t think about the germs. Don’t think about the germs. Don’t think about the germs mantra running through my head as I drove away from the party, leaving my asthmatic daughter there.


I’m not panicky anymore and am fairly certain I can maintain this attitude, especially since the possibility of a pandemic does not mean it’s an inevitability. Plus, 2009 is a long way from 1918, and while the possibility of a flu pandemic scares me, I know we have a couple of advantages not available during the deadly Spanish flu pandemic back then. For one, lab testing is better now, and researchers have been studying the 1918 flu and monitoring for the next pandemic for some time. Should this flu outbreak turn global, I have some hope that the early warnings we’re getting now, better knowledge about how flu spreads, and subsequent government and community efforts to slow that spread will help.

Medical knowledge has come a long way since 1918, too. The flu virus mutates when it’s spread from human to human, making it notoriously difficult to treat, but Tamiflu is so far effective against this strain.

Finally, communication is basically instantaneous now. Coupling information sources like 24-hour news channels, online news feeds, and Twitter with intense scrutiny of the outbreak means we’re getting the warnings and the new developments as fast as they come out. That’s both a blessing – knowledge is power, after all – and, for worriers like me, a curse.

To that end, let me throw some sane, non-panicky, non-sensationalized links at you:

1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. The World Health Organization
3. The Google map of suspected and confirmed swine flu cases.
4. Twitter users SwineFluNews and Hyperlocavore. Follow that last one especially if you like a little politics and slow food news with your swine flu tweeting (I do).
5. Finally, I like this post from Effect Measure. It’s a write-up of the explanations, implications, and expectations (or lack of) for this outbreak.

And let me tell you what I’m doing to get ready. Because refusing to panic about a possible pandemic doesn’t mean I should refuse to prepare for that possibility, especially with an asthmatic child. In addition, the U.S. government recommends disaster planning for all Americans at all times, regardless of health/region/demographic. Here’s what I’m doing:

1. Making sure AG’s inhalers stay more than half-full.
2. Also ensuring I’m stocked up on OTC meds (like motrin) that will help ease mild flu symptoms. (If anything more serious affects this household, we’d head straight to the doctor, of course.)
3. Reminding the girls to wash their hands constantly and avoid any sick kids at school.
4. Stocking two weeks of non-perishable food and water supplies – not just because I could get sick, but also in the event that I’m well but my region is virulent and I’m trying to avoid the contagion of a trip to the store.

Basically, I’m making the normal flu season preparations I should stay on top of all the time anyway, but don’t, when life gets busy. Otherwise, I’m watching and reading and going on with my day as planned. Project deadlines loom and later today, the Steadfast Sidekick has a science fair project she needs to finish up with my help.

As other bloggers and Twitterers have noted – if we’re lucky, this outbreak is a false pandemic alarm and will serve as a learning tool for future health emergencies.**

What’s going on in your world?

**In using the word “lucky,” I don’t mean to diminish the flu deaths in Mexico. Those are tragic, no matter what happens globally, and the victims’ families have my sympathies.

Click here for all Asthma Mom posts on swine flu and asthma.

24 responses to “Not Freaking Out About the Swine Flu”

  1. wendy says:

    There’s always something in the news to frighten us. If it’s not swine flu, it’s west nile virus, sars, chicken flu, toxic baby bottles, water bottles, plastic shower curtains, etc. etc. etc.

    Just take normal precautions. I think the media loves selling newspapers and spreading “fear”. You have some very good links posted for real up-to-date info. I really hope things subside and this flu just flies away.

  2. Michelle says:

    Way to talk yourself off the ledge, my friend! I wish everyone (especially the media) would think this rationally. And good job for getting quoted by ABC!

  3. Allison says:

    I’ve had the same conversations in my head. Thanks again for reminding me that I’m not the only slightly crazy asthma mom out there! And for helping talk me down as well.

  4. Marcia says:

    Okay, I’m a crazy asthma mom. Kept my son home the last two days from school, AKA the petri dish.

    Pulmonologist said to keep him out of crowds. Welllll, school is a day long crowd especially in the hallways, up and down the stairs, the cafeteria, etc,. etc. Kids don’t wash their hands,cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze and parents DO NOT keep sick kids home from school when they should.

    I’m doing what I need to do to protect my kid until I know which way this is going to go. Plus, being an hour from the Mexican border is not comforting at all.

    So tell me, am I truly crazy?

  5. Gloria says:

    I also have a daughter with sickness induced asthma, which they will NOT give tamiflu. This worries me since I understand why they wont. SO, we as asthma mothers know that when our kids get flareups when they are sick it heads right for the lungs. My daughter has had pnemonia three times and she is only 11. We all know that the people dying from Swine Flu are losing their battle not because of the flu sickness, but of the fluid in lungs caused my the flu virus. I would say to you…be worried for your child if she comes into contact with this flu, unless she is able to take the tamiflu regardless of her asthma. There has been a strange sickness plaguing are kids here this past month or so with high fever, coughing, vomitting etc and know one knew what it was. Everyone kept saying its just a virus, but my son caught it and I am telling you it was NO ordinary viurs. (I live in Ohio). More than half the kids were out with it in about a weeks time. I was so upset that they did not notify us parents about this. I took all the precautions to make sure my daughter did not get it and she was spared. Other children were hearing there classmates told to stay out for a week with some unknown contagious virus. WHAT…I would ask! But know one would say. I believe this flu has been around us longer than the past couple of weeks. You say don’t worry, BUT we forget how fast things travel in our day, with airplanes, trains, etc. I am glad to hear that they people in the USA who have become sick are recovering, since it may be that the virus has mutated into a milder form of its ugly mexican cousin, but what we have is a flu made up of swin, bird and human. The one in the middle should very much worry you. BUT I am glad I found you all…I am like you…I want to be prepared, but so much around us makes this a real threat to us. The schools don’t enforce their sick policies on children and fail to notify us when an outbreak happens in the school, mom and dads are forced to go to work sick to make money so they don’t lose their homes and the public is not notified early enough about something dire happening around them until its all over the news. I think the WHO and CDC have know for awhile about this and I would bet money that this flu has been swirling around us for a couple of months now! If anyone has some reliable information about tamiflu vs asthma, I would really love to read it. It seems to really be working against this flu, but all doctors my daughter has seen refuse to give this to her. Your advice and knowledge I would really love to hear on this. Take care!

  6. Marcia says:

    Thank you, your words are very reassuring Amy. I did ask my son’s pulmonologist specifically about Tamiflu and she said it is absolutely safe for him to take. I did recall hearing otherwise in asthma patients a while ago. But if she says it’s okay, I really trust this doctor to know what’s okay.

    However, I just can’t in good conscious throw him into a crowded situation (K-8 school of 1800 kids) just because it’s school. That’s the absolute worst place for him to be. We’ve also been having horrendous winds with blowing dust and pollen (we’re in the desert) so my son’s lungs haven’t been 100% for the couple weeks since his illness anyway.

    There are only 3-1/2 weeks left of school, I may be homeschooling from here on out!

  7. Gloria says:

    Thanks so much everyone. I am gonna call my doctor tomorrow. She sees a pediatric asthma specialist at one of the best Childrens Hospitals in the country and he would not give it to her. She hates getting the needle! Apparently when you take the tamiflu thru he nose it gets into the lungs and apparently causes a negative reaction from the already damaged brochials. Nonetheless, I am gonna call tomorrow & ask again. Perhaps something has changed and that would be great if we could get it for her…just in case. And I am glad school is almost out too! Like I said, I think this flu has been here for a couple of months, but most people tough it out & it is just now hitting radar. I am sure all will be well! Take care and bless you all.

  8. Gloria says:

    I just read those websites…perhaps I am confusing the tamiflu with the flumist! If tamiflu can be taken orally then I absolutely am thinking of the wrong one! Thanks for clearing that up for me. It is the spray in the nasal that is not given to people with asthma! Sorry about that and also very relieved. So glad I found you!

  9. Amy says:

    Gloria–So glad the links helped, and I’m glad you found the site, too. Here’s hoping all our kids stay healthy!

  10. Suzanne says:

    I am in BC (Canada) and we have now had six cases of this flu – although none close geographically to us. I too, have an asthmatic child (four-years-old) and he is currently getting over a cold.

    My question is I would like to ensure he is as physically prepared as possible to combat this flu if he happens to contract it. I have been thinking keeping him on a twice-daily does of flovent and have the Ventolin on hand for acute care.

    Also, he is taking daily vitamins

    I realize the asthma meds are a double-edged sword in that they suppress the immune system, but they also keep his lungs clearer. Does anyone have any ideas to keep his immunity up?

  11. James says:

    It’s May 19, 2009 now, Asthma Mom, and we are deeper into this. Are you still not in a panic? Because I am!!

    – Asthma Dad (of a 3 year old with “RAD”) in NYC

  12. tillie says:

    James, yes I am close to a panic. Health officials are starting to admit that asthma by itself, even in an otherwise healthy person, puts you at risk for serious complications or death. I have been reading websites geared to medical professionals and it appears as if some of the healthy young people who died in Mexico had asthma. My son is sick right now with an ordinary viral infection and I am once again reminded how hard these infections are on him. Trips to the doctor, oral steroids, inhalers, cough medicine, sleepless nights, horrible coughing. Yes I fear each and every viral infection and the swine flu could be my worst nightmare come true. All four of my grandparents lived through the 1918 flu ( I’m in my 50s) and I heard stories that terrified me. My son and I also endured a long ugly battle with whooping cough (a week in the hospital for me and months of recovery) and I haven’t really recovered from the trauma of that one yet! (BTW, don’t let anyone tell you that whooping cough is no big deal anymore. Antibiotics only help if you take them before the coughing begins…after that it won’t cure it, just makes you less contagious to others. Absolute nightmare!)

  13. Kim Macau says:

    OK, admittedly, I’m in a panic about my asthmatic 3 year old, Ashley, and swine flu, especially because I live in Macau which is pretty much 3rd world in terms of medical care. However, in saying that, my 5 year old had Flu Type A about a month ago and we somehow managed to keep my little one from getting it by keeping her in day care for an extended amount of time and sterlizing the entire house every day with Milton sterilizing fluid.
    On doctor’s instructions they couldn’t eat, sleep, bath, play, anything together. It was very hard and I was a total stress monster.
    We kept them eating apart for about a week by allowing TV dinners! At the table they will just grab each others food, forks, so they had separate tv trays.
    Miracle, we kept Ashley from getting the Flu.
    They treated my eldest daughter with Tamiflu and it seemed to work very quickly. I tried to buy some over the counter but it is gov. controlled.
    I deeply regret never getting my family any flu vaccinations but in honesty I’ve never known anyone who had the ‘real’ flu. We live in a small community.
    Am wondering now, should I get the flu vaccine for my little one at this stage? I’m going to ask a doctor.

  14. Amy says:

    Hi Kim,
    So happy you were able to keep your 3 year-old healthy and flu-free. I can relate–I am the Queen of Quarantine when something particularly vicious enters my household!

    It’s my understanding that the regular seasonal flu vaccine has “possibly” helped people with the swine flu, but only by an insignificant, practically unmeasurable amount. Anyone else with more info/corrections on that, please add your comment.

    Definitely, I’d ask the dr. either way, and FYI—should everyone need swine flu vaccines this fall, the news has been reporting that would make a total of 3 shots for most people: one for seasonal flu, and two for swine flu.

  15. Sandra says:

    Glad to have found this site. My 2 boys (2 and 4 years old) both have asthma…only seems to be sickness induced and thankfully they’ve never had a full-on asthma attack but it does seem to make them terribly ill when they have a cold or flu. In March this year my son came home from school with a cough, 2 days later i was told he had pneumonia along with a throat and ear infection, antibiotics cleared this up quickly, it was only in his left lung thankfully, my 2 year old, a week later developed an ear infection, bronchitis and bronchiolitis, again antibiotics and blue and orange puffers. Personally, I’m worried out of my head, i see the doctor in 2 days to ask for advice, we’ve bought a lot of Tylenol and Advil for us and kids, the masks is it N95 or something? dry and tinned food, have emergency numbers on the fridge and a bag packed in case of hospitalization…i really dont want my son going back to school until him and his brother have been vaccinated…..but hey i dont want to panic

  16. Amy says:

    Hi Sandra–Thanks for stopping by & giving your input. I’m extremely nervous about school starting in the fall, too. My kids are a little older than yours–10 (the asthmatic) and 7–which helps the worry somewhat, but we all know how schools are germ factories.

    I’ve been keeping an eye on vaccination news–hopefully we’ll hear more about it soon.

  17. Sandra says:

    Well, I went to the doctor’s today and am glad I did. We’re so lucky to have such a good doctor, she allayed some of my fears. I’m thankful that my children have a very mild form of asthma, although I’m aware this is by no means any guarantee. So, I had noticed 2 weeks ago after I’d taken him for his 2nd MMR and 4-6yr quadracelle jab that he hadnt had his pneumo congugate jab…at all, ever and I wondered if that was why he developed pneumonia when the rest of us hadnt from the same bug, anyway she agrees he should definitely have it, I’m relieved because when it comes to complications…obviously the more protection the better. I told her I’d read some mothers were confused as to whether or not to build up their children’s lungs with the cortico-steroid puffer or whether it would do more harm since it lowers their immune system. I told her I had stopped giving this to my 2 year old a couple of weeks ago since his cough had completely gone, no symptoms at all. She advised this is the best thing, if they don’t need it, don’t give it, the right balance is what’s needed, so I guess I’d advise anyone who’s wondering to consult their own doctor. Another good thing she said, if they display flu symptoms at all (not a cold) get them assessed straightaway, don’t phone the health line cos they’ll just tell you to give them fever reducing drugs etc… she said put a mask on them and take them in, they’re children! I think regarding school that I’ve decided unless it’s rife in our area he can go to school but he wont take the bus, i’ll drive him until him and his brother are vaccinated which the health unit here expect some time in October. He’s on the bus for an hour, with children from other schools too, so…..enclosed space. I will do everything I can to stop them getting it, but if they get it we’ll deal with it immediately, no delay

  18. Sandra says:

    Vaccination news is not good, I heard today that there’s a snag. Something to do with a low yield in the eggs? Not good

  19. Louise says:

    Well with August nearly here, I am becoming more and more concerned about the return of school and my asthmatic son being exposed to H1N1. So much so, that I have been researching homeschool programs and wondering whether I should homeschool both my children until they are vaccinated. I intend to discuss this with their school this week. Has anyone else thought out this?

  20. Amy says:

    Hi Louise–
    I’ll have a new post up later tonight about school/fall flu season/vaccines, etc. A LOT of readers have been emailing me about this very topic.

  21. Anna says:

    My six year old son, my husband and I are all recovering from swine flu. We all have asthma which was well controlled with inhaled steroids prior to the onset of the flu. If we hadn’t had on hand a nebulizer and albuterol and oral prednisone for emergencies, I don’t think we would have made it. This flu makes you feel like your lungs are made of bricks and no matter how hard you work, you just can’t move any air into your body. Our pulse oxygens dropped and stayed in the low 80s no matter what we tried. Because we are an hour away from the nearest hospital, I try to keep enough emergency supplies on hand so that we can address a crisis- but we each still had to go to hospital for more treatment. It’s a horrible horrible disease and I hope no one reading this gets it.

  22. Rob says:

    I have a daughter that is 11. She has asthma that seems to be onset by colds, flu’s and allergies.
    She was quite severe when she was 3-7 years of age.
    She is also allergic to egg. The shot is out the door.
    We have had multi nights in the hospital over past asthma attacks. Extremely scary moments for any parent.
    Any ideas…..

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