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My Son Has the Swine Flu: A Daily Journal

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Editor's note: Bruce Sallan is not a doctor. This item is not intended to be giving medical advice. It is written from his experience with his son and the swine flu and his own personal opinions about media coverage of H1N1. For more information on H1N1, please read our story and check out the Centers for Disease Control's website.

We just learned that our older son, Will, has the swine flu.

bruce and will

Bruce Sallan: Fortunately, we didn't panic or allow the hysteria of the MSM (mainstream media) to scare us to death. His first reaction was simply, "Darn, I'm going to miss Halloween." I believe our media have become hysteria-mongers, as well as all too often focusing on their agenda versus objective reporting. They devote way too much time to subjects unworthy of so much coverage, such as the Balloon Boy or the tragic deaths of celebrities.

With the swine flu, we've been deluged with scare reports from the media, ignoring the fact that each year tens of thousands of Americans die of the regular flu. As with AIDS, the panic is overwrought and generalized to scare everyone, when the reality is that there are more at-risk groups for just about every such illness.

My younger son was exposed to the swine flu at summer camp this past summer. His counselor got it, as well as several other counselors and some campers. Those infected were isolated, those exposed were given Tamiflu, and life as we know it -- and camp life, in particular -- continued. My son's counselor returned to their cabin in a week, no worse for the wear.

I expect the same will be true for my son and the vast majority of those that catch this particular strain of the flu. But, for the record, following is a daily journal of our experience, which I will keep as things occur, in sequence, without editorializing later.

Day One: Will is sent home from school, as the nurse called to say he had a mild fever. We put him to bed, took his temp, and called our pediatrician. He had a 101 fever, a slight cough, but otherwise seemed fine. He suspected he got it from one of his bandmates, who was sick when they last rehearsed. The pediatrician's office said to give him Motrin, fluids, and see if he still had a temperature tomorrow and, if so, to bring him in. Later that evening, his temp was just 100, and he was feeling pretty good.

Day Two: Will woke up feeling pretty good and actually wanted to go to school. We thought better and kept him home and in bed. Later, when his temp was still over 100, we took him to the doctor. Twenty minutes after they took a swab, we got the diagnosis -- he had the swine flu. They prescribed a Z-Pak (five-day dose of antibiotics) and Tamiflu, which we got at Costco for $100. By now, he was complaining of some aches and pains and a general soreness throughout his body. He also was complaining about missing Halloween, and was feeling sorry for himself. My wife told him that we were going to have to cancel the party she'd been planning for weeks because of his infection, and he actually quieted down and realized he wasn't the only one affected. A pretty amazing realization for a teenager!

Day Three: He's sleeping in late, so we haven't taken his temp yet. Up around noon, he took a shower, and said he felt fine. Was playing his guitar when I went in to check his temp, which was normal. When I asked him how he was feeling, he replied with total teen contempt, "I feel fine," which really meant, "I'm fine, why do I have to stay in my room, why can't I go out and enjoy Halloween?" This can't be all there is to this?!

Day Four: They say your kids often do many of the things that you do, good and bad. Last night, my son reflected one of my traits when he apologized for being moody and grumpy. He doesn't understand why he has to still stay home when he's now feeling fine, just four days after getting sick and three days into his 5-day course of meds. I told him that after the five days of meds, if he goes another 24 hours with a normal temp, then he could return to school. The funny part is he's so bored -- he actually wants to go to school. His temp is still normal.

Resignation has set in for Will. He knows he's not going to talk his way out of his room and into school. It's sort of like the stages of grieving, according to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. My son was in denial, then anger, and now is in "acceptance."

Day Five: Last night, Will got a surprise visit from his girlfriend, her stepdad, and another friend. They talked to him from outside his room, through the window, for a few minutes. It was both a boost and a reminder of his "in prison" status.

One amazing thing has happened with his forced lockdown time. He's actually reflected on plans for the future. A teenager reflecting on anything? Wow, maybe this swine flu thing is really a good thing? As he's always loved music, demonstrated real talent, as well as developed a lot of knowledge, he's decided he wants to go to a music school and learn production. While he still wants to be a "rock star," this sort of mature alternative planning is quite the anomaly for him.

Today, his temperature is still normal. His energy is high. If this is the worse the swine flu throws us, I'll consider this family extremely lucky and the media highly inflammatory in their declarations. This afternoon, he even went out to the garage and played drums for a while.

Tomorrow is his last day of meds. If he's got a normal temp for another 24 hours, it's back to school for him, and this episode will have been easier than a lingering cough or cold. Amazing. And, as yet, no one else in the house has got it, though one of our dogs came up lame for a while (she's veeerrrrryyyyy old).

Tonight is his last dose of Tamiflu. A friend of his just got diagnosed with swine flu, and they thought they could hang out together as they're both already infected. OMG, are they nuts? Nope, just teenagers.

Day Six: "Will my son have a temp today?" is the big question. He finished his course of meds and today will determine if he can finally leave his confinement to his room.

He was all ready for school when I came back this morning from getting blood taken, after a recent physical. Took his temperature and sat with him, patiently waiting. Normal. Off to school we went.

So, what have I learned, and what can I impart from our bout with the swine flu? Simply, don't listen to our vice-president, don't listen to our media, and DON'T worry about it if you're the average person. Yes, if you're in one of the risk categories, be extra careful. Also (and we did this constantly and no one else has so far contracted it), have hand sanitizer everywhere in the house. You can't overdo it.

Finally, and I'm dead serious -- if you have a child that is stuck at home with the swine flu and ends up like my son (with negligible symptoms), your biggest problem will be his boredom. Help him or her out with books, CDs, DVDs, etc. If they don't have a computer or TV in their room, move one in just for the duration.

And, most of all, don't panic.


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50 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous November 6, 2009, 6:18 AM

Both my boys (12 and 2) got the flue (suspected swine). For one, we had to cancel the birthday party and the other it hit on Halloween. Yeah they were miserable, but the tylenol and motrin helped keep the fevers under control. The biggest problem for them tended to be the boredom, especially for the older one. But they survived it and we’ve moved on. No hype just a little tlc.

Anita (England) November 6, 2009, 8:09 AM

This is an excellent blog. Bruce is absolutely right – don’t panic. Instead, treat the symptom quickly, and above all, keep the patient indoors, as this reduces the risk of spreading the virus. Over here, we are told not to take anyone infected to the doctors as there could be someone with an underlying illness in the waiting room for which swine flu can be dangerous. We have here the NHS (our main medical body) Direct help-line, Swine Flu Information Line and the NHS website, which helps you determine if you have swine flu. The most common symptoms are high temperature, accompanied by two or more of the following: cough, sore throat, runny nose, pain in the limbs or joints, headache. If you think you do, then you are asked to phone your doctor who will prescribe Tamiflu for a friend of the family to collect. It doesn’t cost anything to anyone under the age of 18, or the elderly because it is distributed through the NHS. I understand America doesn’t have the same way of doing things as England, but the bottom line is to maintain good basic hygiene, e.g. washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands. One other thing we’ve been told is that you need to be 48 hours minimum symptom free before mixing with others. Again, great blog, Bruce! And so pleased to hear your son is better.

Sonnie November 6, 2009, 9:01 AM

I’m pleased to hear your son had a mild case and the worst issue was boredom. Thankfully it’s not hit our house (yet) but several of my daughters friends has had it (most had to miss Halloween too). My daughter is trying to be extra careful to stay away from it since she hates missing school(weird, I know).

Robin November 6, 2009, 9:25 AM

Bruce - you have really opened my eyes. Frankly, I was panicked and bought into all the media reports and we’ve been washing out hands 20 times a day. We will still do that, but it’s a relief to realize it’s not the disaster it’s been sold to us by our so-called news and media. I’m beginning to think that all “news” should just be called “opinions”. Now, with the disaster at Ft. Hood, the government is focusing on the foolish healthcare proposal and trying to ram that through. These are trying times; thanks for taking the swine flu off my list of worries.

Loren November 6, 2009, 4:35 PM

Good play by play Bruce! One other suggestion is that if your child has a week point in his/her body ie. lungs: recurring bronchitis that could easily turn into pnuemonia, you might want to get additional medication to treat/prevent that since one of the symptoms is a cough.

Superwoman Quest November 6, 2009, 5:51 PM

Bruce, although I am glad your son only caught a mild case of the Swine flu, you can not, no, MUST not tell people that they can not take this lightly. I agree with you that the majority of people will only get a mild case of the swine flu, many HEALTHY people with who are not in any risk category will still get a sever case of it. I have two personal examples of my own. My good friends perfectly healthy daughter with no previous health history caught it. Within 12 hours she went from playing to being flown to a larger metropolitan hospital. After a whole month in the hospital, she was finally released but is still having a whole host of medical neurological problems that are the direct result of the aftermath that the virus left to her body. She is looking at months and maybe years of physical therapy to get back to normal. The second example is a friend of my two oldest daughters. On Tues she was feeling a little under the weather but well enough to play in a soccer game, on Wed she was found face down on the floor of her bathroom, on Thurs, she was dead. Again, another normal healthy teenager with no previous medical history. that same week my kid also had it, but thank God, she had a fairly mild case. Please don’t take this lightly. although your experience turned out well, there are many others that have not. Precautions need to be taken to prevent and stop the spread of this deadly virus.


Kirsten Wildman November 6, 2009, 5:54 PM

Glad to hear it was a mild case! The media tends to over react, remember SARS. The flu kills people every year, they never talk about that. I expect the end soon, since dooms day prophecies are rampant.. watchout Dec. 21. 2012!!!!

Bruce Sallan November 6, 2009, 6:07 PM

Superwoman - I’m so sorry to hear of those cases. I do think everyone should be cautious and I definitely “hear” your point. However, scaring the majority of people isn’t a good thing and that is what the msm does. This is not likely going to kill more people than the annual flu we face each year, yet the media coverage scares us to think so. That is my point. More people are killed by drunk drivers and in car accidents, but we don’t all fear driving as a result. I just want the truth to be told, not lies that get people to over-react. As soon as symptoms appears, every person should see their doctor and if, G*d forbid, they get worse as the two cases you describe, they should follow up immediately with their doctors or go to the ER. Thanks for your comments and I am, indeed, very grateful it was so mild for my son and the rest of us didn’t catch it. Right now, we’re preparing for dinner and my son’s girlfriend is over. I know we are and were lucky.

Lisa November 6, 2009, 7:59 PM

I love reading your stuff! I find myself laughing out loud way to much! Both my boys had the Swine Flu, 1 yr and 2 yrs., and it wasn’t bad at all. I was not overly worried and I think the hype from the media was crazy. Oh, and boredom from them, and craziness from me! There is only so much that will entertain them for more then 20 mins. Thankfully your son is doing good and the rest of your family didn’t get it. (I was wanting to read this ALL day but didn’t have 5 secs to get on the computer)

Bruce Sallan November 7, 2009, 6:53 AM

Lisa;

Comments like yours make it all worthwhile. Thanks so much for the kind words. Feels like I wrote this article just for (and almost about) you.

BTW, I have a correction to declare about the attached photo. I’m standing in a hole and my son is on a hill. I’m only 2” shorter than him and I’m not a midget as that photo might suggest! LOL.

mindy  November 8, 2009, 11:09 AM

Great article ~ and I love the reference to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the stages we all go through to process what is going on in our lives, at the moment : )
also, his shift: having hope for the future as he was starting to feel better.
As a natural Health Care Provider, I recommend a Homeopathic Flu remedy to be taken weekly for 4 weeks, in lieu of the Flu Shot.
If someone comes down with the regular flu (not the swine flu) ~ there are many Chinese Herbal preparations and other natural remedies that every home should have on hand this time of year ~ for information, please contact me at www.drmindyboxer.com

may it be a healthy holiday season for us all!!

Dolores November 10, 2009, 4:32 AM

My daughter is 13, On Oct 17 th she came down with the swine flu.Sunday the temp went to 103 even with advil etc.She had difficulty breathing and chest hurt when she coughed.She was lethargic and moaning she didn’t feel right,her heart was racing to 130.So we took her to the E-R.She has a heart condition history,so we didn’t want to put her to bed like that.She was seen and swabed and a positive test result for the swine flu came back.Chest x-rays and alot of blood work later,we went home with Tamiflu and cough syrup with codeine.The fever broke after her second dose of Tamiflu.But her symptoms persisted till the third full day ,then gradually decreased.the infection in her sinuses and chest needed antibiotics,but with her heart history we waited till friday then beagn them.Of course she had allergic reactyions to them twice and we tried another one bIaxin.And she was good to go.Back to school after a week and three weeks later she is her self again.It was bad the coughing was terrible ,the conjestion unbearable and the irritability and fatigue was made worse by the tamiflu.All better now.

Bruce Sallan November 10, 2009, 7:50 PM

Dolores -

You had me anxious as I read your comment. Very glad to hear your daughter came out of this okay. I certainly don’t want others to be lax in their care of their children based on our relatively mild case and experience. Very happy it worked out for you. As with all health issues, we have to be proactive and you clearly were.

Kathy November 11, 2009, 8:38 AM

While I am happy to hear that your son had such an easy time with the swine flu, this is not the case for everyone. You had the luxury of having him tested early on (Day 2) & be given Tamiflu and a Z-pak, which both shortens the duration and the symptoms.
Most physicians/pediatricians are not doing this due to the high volume of sick kids and are diagnosing over the phone, and not giving Tamiflu unless they have medical complications. Instead, here in Santa Barbara, they are merely prescribing fluids and rest by phone and only advising coming in if they start exhibiting real problems breathing or any neurological symptoms.
I have heard stories from parents & kids alike of days of being so sick, they couldn’t even sit up in bed. That clearly was not your son’s case. I hope you realize there are diverse reactions to this virus as you criticize the media & the Vice-President for trying to make sure we all stay healthy this season.


Bruce Sallan November 11, 2009, 10:35 PM

Kathy;

I don’t want to make light of the swine flu nor your comments. It does need to be taken seriously and we all should be aware of the risks. Go to the CDC site for more accurate information was the suggestion of a doctor who wrote me and I agree with him. I do not claim to be a M.D. or an expert on disease. I do believe the media tend to scare us and often exaggerate to fulfill their agenda and/or particular political orientation. BUT, I don’t want anyone reading this blog to not call their doctors at the very least if they suspect they or a family member might have caught this flu or ANY flu. Thank you for commenting and, I believe it was your husband who also wrote to me, I thank him for his suggestion about the CDC.

Meredith November 25, 2009, 11:36 PM

Great & detailed journal Bruce! The more I read, the more my nerves and anxiety over this “hype” seemed to calm down. My son is 2 and he is a healthy, happy child. We had gone through a period before the summer when he seemed to be sick with something or other every week. Because of this, we had taken him out of his PT daycare routine. Since we did that, the colds, coughs & fevers went away. He did and still does have a bout with Croupe here and there, but other than that he seems to be fine. We had put him back into daycare 2days a week around Sept 1st. A few weeks later he came down w/ a cough, was lethargic, and slight fever. It seemed to come & go before we knew it. His birthday was a couple weeks later and the whole day, he seemed just “off”. This lasted a couple days, then a croupe attack, then fine. For some reason, I suspect he may have had a mild case of the flu..not sure which one and I could be wrong. So, my worries over the Swine Flu are back & forth. Is my son considered high-risk because of his Croupe attacks and his PAST with frequent illnesses? As I mentioned, your blog made me relax a bit, but then the comments..some of them shook me back up. Thank you for sharing and no matter what, I will continue to be dilligent about the hand washing/sanitizing, but still confused on him getting the vaccine. At this point he has not even received the seasonal flu vaccine bc of all the hype about the Swine Flu. I am furious at the media, they have me confused and neurotic. Reading your journal has helped some, so again, I thank you. Glad your son’s biggest complaint was boredom! Happy & HEALTHY Thanksgiving to you and your family.

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