Swine flu is back, with a vengeance. I should know: I spent four days in hospital with it over the Christmas period. My wife suffered from it a couple of weeks later, although she wasn't hospitalised (I can only assume she didn't have the 'man' version - which is, of course, much worse).
Naturally, we were worried that one of our young children would catch it. My two sons - Isaac, 3, and Noah, eight months - do not fall into any of the NHS' 'high-risk' groups, but news stories of children succumbing to the disease obviously concerned us deeply. So far, so good - a couple of runny noses and nasty coughs, but nothing serious.
That's not to say they won't pick something up. Isaac goes to pre-school, where rooms are full of grubby children with dirty hands coughing and sneezing wildly into the air. Chicken pox is once again making the rounds. And we dread the day we have to reach for the nit shampoo.
However, there are a number of things that we can do to limit the spread of disease, especially swine flu.
Get the Jab
The most effective (and obvious) way to help minimise the risk that your child contracts flu is to get him or her vaccinated. News reports vary on the stock levels of the swine flu vaccine - some GPs are reporting dwindling supplies, while medical authorities reassure the public that there are no shortages - so the best thing you can do is simply contact your GP and request an appointment. About a week to 10 days after your child has had the vaccination, they develop antibodies to help fight the virus.
Promote Good Hygiene
Viruses can be spread through a number of means, whether it be through touch or via the air from coughing and sneezing. Teach your child to cover his or her mouth whenever they cough, preferably with a tissue, and to wash their hands afterwards. You may find it is a good idea for your child to carry a small bottle of sanitiser gel to use every now and then.
Toys are the perfect way for children to pass germs on to one another. One kid picks up a toy truck, coughs on it, picks his nose, chews it a bit, and puts it down. Your child comes along, picks up the truck, and - before you know it - is inhaling all manner of germs and spittle. If your child has been playing with others, make sure you clean any toys thoroughly both before and afterwards; this will limit the spread of viruses and bacteria.
Promote a Healthy Diet
The immune system of a baby or child is not as advanced as that of an adult, and so they become more susceptible to illness. Through a healthy, well-balanced diet and plenty of fluids, make sure your child's body is fortified with vitamins and minerals to help boost immunity.
It is inevitable that your child will pick up at least a few illnesses in the first few years of his or her life. But, with careful management and just a bit of elbow grease, the risk of your son or daughter contracting swine flu can be reduced greatly. Remember: 'Catch It, Bin It, Kill It'. If only the same rule could apply for office work.