When I was little, my mother used to take me to play with kids who had chicken pox. She was hoping that I would catch the illness, which was seen as an inevitable part of childhood, and get it over with (it didn’t work—I was an adult before I finally caught it). Getting it over with is the reasoning, I suppose, behind “swine flu parties.”
Swine flu parties are a really bad idea. Here’s why:
- Some kids get very sick with swine flu, or H1N1. This was a flaw in my mother’s plan, too, as some kids get very sick with chicken pox (which is why we now vaccinate children against it). Why would you actively encourage your child to get something that could make them very ill?
- Because H1N1 is so contagious, there’s a good chance that if your child gets it, he’ll give it to someone else. That someone else could be you, or even worse, someone at risk for complications of H1N1, like a pregnant woman.
- We don’t fully understand H1N1 yet, but it appears that you can get it more than once. So you’d just be adding to the number of times your kid gets it, as opposed to giving them protection.
We want to limit the spread of H1N1, not encourage it. So if you’re invited to a swine flu party, say no! Here’s what you and your family can do to help keep you all healthy:
- Wash your hands, all the time, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow, not your hands
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
- To the extent that it’s possible, stay away from sick people
- Keep sick members of your family at home! Call your doctor for advice on how to care for them.
Claire McCarthy, MD, is a primary care physician and the medical director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Martha Eliot Health Center. Read her recent post on the five things you need to know about H1N1.
For more information on Flu (seasonal and H1N1) from Children’s Hospital Boston, visit http://www.childrenshospital.org/patientsfamilies/Site1393/mainpageS1393P385.html