Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Since the emergence of the H1N1 flu in April of this year, and its classification in June by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic, I have been dreading the fall.

As the mother of two elementary school children, fall is not only the back-to-school season, but also the virus-spreading season. The first year our oldest child was in childcare, she rarely became ill, but my husband was sick for about nine months. It seemed that, as soon as he became well, he would catch something else. The good news is that he acquired immunities to the various childhood viruses and was soon healthy again.

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The past few falls our family has followed a routine, hoping to stay in good health (enough sleep, good nutrition, exercise and good hygiene), and received seasonal flu vaccines. This fall is a bit different due to H1N1, also known as swine flu.

I have been worried about the new flu's potential impact on my family. The media headlines have been frightening. The recent report to the White House listing as a plausible scenario as many as 90,000 deaths in the United States due to the virus is alarming. This is more than twice as many as the seasonal flu, which normally results in 36,000 deaths in the United States per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Another reason for my heightened concern: The swine flu is more prevalent among younger adults and children than is the seasonal flu, according to the CDC.

This past weekend, both our children began running fevers. A dose of Tylenol brought the fevers down and allowed them to rest easier. Our initial thought was that they have a virus.

We called their pediatricians' office to schedule a visit, but once they determined there were no underlying health issues, they advised us to stay at home and treat them with over-the-counter medicines. The nurse said that she thought our children have the flu.

Since the H1N1 flu has been diagnosed in their school, and as I recently found out, in my children's classmates, it is probably the H1N1 flu -- especially since it's early for seasonal flu.

H1N1's predominant symptoms of high fever and coughing are also common to seasonal viruses, and the stomach symptoms are not as prevalent as in the seasonal flu. So be extra vigilant in regard to fever, as it may be the only symptom.


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.