Tips on talking to kids about Ebola

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The graphic images and scary rhetoric in the media about Ebola can be stressful enough for adults, but imagine what it is like for youngsters, especially those who cannot understand much of what is being said about the illness.

“The constant coverage can be alarming for adults and downright scary for children,” said Dr. Christopher D. Dael, Riverside County public health medical program director. “They may not understand how difficult Ebola is to contract or the remote chance that it could spread in the U.S. like it has in West Africa, but they can hear and see the anxiety among the adults in their lives, like parents, teachers or caregivers. It can be stressful for youngsters.”

Dael, a pediatrician who oversees the Children’s Medical Services, is offering some tips for talking with children about Ebola:

• First and foremost, kids should be reassured that they are safe. While Ebola is a serious disease, it’s important to remember that it is very rare and it doesn’t spread very easily. When someone does become sick, doctors, nurses and scientists take care of that person to make sure they get well and that they don’t make anyone else sick.

• Kids should know that the health care and public health systems in the U.S. are among the very best and most advanced in the world. Doctors and scientists around the country are working hard to find ways to cure Ebola and to prevent it from spreading.

• Adult care-givers may want to consider limiting young children’s exposure to the news and social media. Adults should decide what information on Ebola their children receive based on their level of understanding and maturity. Generally, adults should make sure kids are not exposed to overly graphic material on the news or Internet that may unduly scare them.

• It’s important for kids and adults to know they are much more likely to get sick from colds and the flu this year; kids should be reminded that keeping up with hand-washing or hand sanitizers is one of the best ways to stay healthy every day.

• Adults should stay informed so they can talk knowledgeably to their kids. Care-givers and educators can get reliable information from the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/), the California Department of Public Health (www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/DEFAULT.aspx), Riverside County’s webpage on Ebola (www.rivcoph.org) and www.healthychildren. org.

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