How to Protect Your Kids from Swine Flu: Stop the Spread

Our featured Expert Mommy is Cara Natterson is a mom of two, a Board certified pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics who has treated thousands of children in her private practice. Her latest book Dangerous or Safe? hits bookshelves TODAY. Cara has appeared as a pediatric and parenting expert on television shows like Today and CNN and today she is talking to us about H1N1 as well as child vaccinations.

Q: What do you foresee being the biggest health risk children will face this fall?
A: Probably H1N1 (“swine”) flu. But that’s not because it will cause devastation—most health experts anticipate that this flu will be similar to (or even milder than) regular seasonal flu. The reason I think it is going to cause problems is that H1N1 will likely spread throughout schools, causing school closures. Parents will need to find something to do with their kids during the day because it is plausible that even well kids will need to be home for a little while. When 1 parent can stay at home, this doesn’t present a huge problem; but when both parents work there is now the issue of missed days, oftentimes with financial implications, and depending upon how widespread this becomes also the possibility of short-term decreased productivity for our country as a whole.

Q: What should we do to protect children from H1N1 and other flu strands?
A: Teach basic hygiene: hand washing, hand washing, hand washing. I love that the Department of Health and Human Services is teaming up with Elmo to send a message to the youngest audience. We also have to get better about staying home when sick. Again, this is an issue of pragmatism: if both parents work, sometimes it seems impossible to have 1 stay home with a sick child. But that sick child will undoubtedly pass the infection on to several others because the virus spreads when we touch our mouth or nose or eyes and then a doorknob or a pencil or a desk. Sending a sick child to school only passes the dilemma onto another family a few days later.

Q: As a mother of two young children will you give your kids the Swine Flu vaccination?
A: I don’t even know if they will qualify to get the new vaccine. There is talk that the number of doses may be quite limited, and if this is the case then initially only very young children (under 4) and older children with chronic medical issues will have access. While it is anticipated that there will eventually be enough doses for everyone who wants one, the priority groups will get it first. My kids don’t fit into either of these categories. I did, however, already give my kids their seasonal flu vaccine—some 2 months earlier than usual. I did this to leave the option for H1N1 vaccine open since it is unclear how many weeks need to pass between seasonal flu vaccine administration and H1N1 flu vaccine administration.

Q: Vaccinations have also become a hot button issue in recent years. Do you feel it’s safe to vaccinate your own children and have you found any connection with Autism or other health risks?
A: It is humbling to admit this, but you better bet that I thought about this issue differently once I had children. I re-read every study. And then I vaccinated my kids. I firmly believe that the diseases prevented with vaccination are far more dangerous than any of the vaccines. That said, I understand the concerns of parents and as a pediatrician I find it impossible not to hear them. A parent is her child’s best advocate; when there are worries, we need to listen and help parents come to decisions about what to do. This requires a major time investment and lots of conversations—we are talking about a large number of vaccines given over several years, and each deserves a discussion.

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommy’s recommendations for travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.


  1. Yup, H1N1 seems to be making the rounds at my kids school! I think ZM might even have it.

  2. Zen Mommy says:

    🙁 i got something that’s for sure. this is a very controversial topic and one i’m glad we are covering. i’d like to know more about the preservatives they use… i’m not totally sold.

  3. Zen Mommy says:
  4. We went as an entire family and got the seasonal flu vaccine last weekend. I’m planning to follow through with the H1N1 vaccine for my children, then for us presuming it is available.

    From what I’ve heard and read, although the H1N1 is novel the vaccine is not. It is prepared and tested in the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine. That gives me some peace-of-mind with respect to quality control. The H1N1 strain has killed 4,000 people worldwide and millions more have become ill – some more than others. The problems reported to be associated with the 1976 swine flu vaccine don’t appear to have any connection to this new vaccine – other than having fueled alarm.

    For those reasons I am inclined to protect my family from the H1N1 illness and its consequences than to fear the vaccine.

  5. Twitter me at Meryl333 says:

    Advise you to go to Dr. . Recently posted 9 Reasons Why You Should NOT get the Flu Shot. Video of Fox interview with contagious disease specialist that said flu is not as bad as it was in Mexico and that he DEFINITELY would not get one or give his kids the vaccine. ( BTW. I am not anti-vaccine. I do believe the excessive amounts of vaccines we are giving are having a disastrous effect on health. Studies that say a particular vaccine is safe.. does not take into consideration the effect of 24 or so vaccines given to kids by the time they are two. (or 5 depending on how well you listen to your doctor & how well he/she tows the lines provided by the pharmaceutical companies.

  6. This is definitely a HOT issue… one that we will be exploring on an ongoing basis. I want to make sure that both sides of the debate get addressed and that we hear from experts who have access to research that can help our moms make informed decisions.

    But I will stress AGAIN, at the end of the day, YOU are the only one who can make the right call for yourself, your children and family. We can interview 100 experts until the end of time but at the end of the day, they will not be making the call for you or your child. And I’m not one to advocate for giving up your power in that way. I thought Dr. Natterson was very respectful in the way that she presented her own choice and her similar philosophy, “What I do for my children isn’t what you have to do for your children.”

    Whether or not it’s helpful, I will add that I myself don’t know what to think about the flu vaccine however, I don’t have very strong feelings about it. I’ve never had an adverse reaction to the shot itself. I got the flu shot every year from 1994 through 2005/6 (whatever year it was when there was a shortage), after which I have not… primarily because it was inconvenient that year and I didn’t get the flu after NOT having gotten the shot so every year thereafter, I’ve just taken my chances. I have only gotten the flu maybe 2 times in my life.

    I think that the awareness about preservatives is pretty high and it seems like you could be your own advocate and make sure that the specific shot that you or your children get is preservative-free. Now whether or not the way in which your body “encounters” the virus makes a difference to how it responds… I’m no expert!

    Like I said above, H1N1 is making it’s way around my kids’ school. It’s a virus that most people don’t have immunity to so if they come in contact with it and… well, just don’t scrub enough, they probably will get it. My kids did get the flu shot last year and frankly, I can’t remember if they did prior to that. And I think, IF the H1N1 vaccine is conveniently available at the time we go in for their annual physicals, I will probably have them vaccinated for it. But if it is not, then I won’t. That’s my current position… I’m open to persuasion.

  7. And I also want to point out that the related article listed above… has some GREAT, insightful input from other moms on the subject of vaccination as well. So be sure to read that and contribute your own thoughts.

    And… p.p.s. ZM, I sooo hope you get better soon. I miss your regular voice and normal game for anything spirit!

  8. newest update. it is the wine flu in our home. so as my body was alredy actively dealing wiht and fighting off the wine flu, i introduced the flu vaccine and that did not support the ole immune system as you can imagine.

    i have to say, getting the call from the doc saying we tested + for H1N1 helps explain my trouble kicking this thing over past 8 days.

    my daughter on the other hand did beautifully. symptoms started sat, fever sun and mon, little sick still tues but by wed feeling way better and fever free. home today and looks great. would prefer her to have gone through this than for her to have received a shot into her veins that i’m not 100% sure about, what’s in it, how kids respond to it in the long run, etc. etc.

  9. Great article and good to see common sense prevails in respect of swine or any influenza. With most parents, or single parent families working we must consider not only activities but care in those unplanned situations. A pre arrange support person or persons is a mandatory requirement as is some agreement with your employer.

  10. meryl333 on Twitter says:

    Recalls by the FDA for pharmaceutical products are skyrocketing. Their big profit center is now Vaccines. Walgreens was hustling them all summer even tho the flu season passed and nobody knows what flu strain we are expecting. Politicians who don’t seem to give a rats behind about supporting real health care are on the bandwagon to protect us with forced vaccination programs. Mighty scary stuff.
    Don’t forget that bigPharm has an excemption from liability. They can do all kinds of harm and it won’t effect their bottom line. Be cautious. Be very very skeptical.

  11. I did notice that about the flu shots at Walgreens. We didn’t do them last year and I can’t imagine that we will this year. We all came down with “the swine” last year. My kids did better that I did… I ended up with bronchitis. Ugh.

  12. meryl333 on Twitter says:

    Fact is plenty of people came down with the flu that took the shots. Also, did the doctor have tests run to verify it actually was the swine flu? The real fact were revealed that many flu cases reported as swine flu were not. When our bodies are allowed to fight off stuff it gets stronger. Good diet, no or very low sugar and immune system booster are awesome. There is a dark berry prep that is very effective in staving off the flu. I started taking it before the season started and if any symptoms appear, double dose. I don’t have the bottle, but will check if you are interested.

  13. Is this not due to us using bug killing sprays? I remember when I was a boy and I played out in all weathers, now we seem to wrap our children up in cotton wool.

    Please don;t get me wrong Swine Flu is nasty, but the bug trasforms itself adapting to the way we try to kill it.