​8 Facts About Ebola That Kids Need to Hear

ebola virusEbola panic is sweeping the nation -- and given how worrisome it is to adults, for kids it can be downright terrifying. So what do you do if your little ones come home with questions about the disease, or repeating rumors they've picked up on the playground about how everyone (and even their dogs) is going to die? As a mom, it's your job to set the record straight and make them feel safe.


"With the media attention -- sometimes sensationalized -- on healthcare crises and the emergent cases of Ebola in the U.S., children may feel confused by the barrage of information," says Theodote Pontikes, MD, a child psychiatrist and professor at Stritch School of Medicine. Kids need to hear the facts, not the media hype.

To help out on that front, here's what your kids should know about this highly misunderstood disease.

  1. If your kid asks: "What is Ebola?"
    Offer this reality check:
    "It's a virus that makes you very sick." Tell them it's similar to having a cold or flu, where you get a fever, sore throat, and might throw up or have diarrhea.
  2. If your kid asks: "I heard millions of people have Ebola. Can I get it?"
    Offer this reality check: "It's not millions, honey. There are a lot of people in Africa who have it, but there have been only three in America, so chances are we're going to be okay."
  3. If your kid asks: "How do you get Ebola?"
    Offer this reality check: "You can only catch it by touching the body fluids (spit, blood, etc.) of someone with Ebola or if someone with ebola coughs on you." You can also stress that one way kids can protect themselves is by washing their hands frequently -- and that they can only catch Ebola from someone who is very sick, says Carole Lieberman, M.D., a psychiatrist and public health expert. So, if his pal Jimmy looks healthy, he's fine to play with.
  4. If your kid asks: "Can you die from Ebola?"
    Offer this reality check: "Sometimes, but if you go to the doctor right away, they can help you get better."
  5. If your kid asks: "I heard dogs can get it. Will ours?"
    Offer this reality check: "Yes, dogs can get Ebola, but they don't get sick!" Doctors aren't sure why, says Amesh Adalja, MD, a representative of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. But regardless that's good news for your pooch.
  6. If your kid asks: "What if people in Africa with Ebola come here?"
    Offer this reality check: "Yes, people in Africa can come here, but not if they're sick. Doctors check them before they get on the plane."

    More from The Stir: Ebola Virus Outbreak Spreading Fast: 8 Things You Need to Know

  7. If your kid asks: "Is there medicine for Ebola?"
    Offer this reality check: While it's true there is no proven cure or vaccine, you can say, "Doctors are trying all sorts of different things, and they've been able to treat a lot of people and save their lives."
  8. If your kid asks: "Do I have to get an Ebola shot?"
    Offer this reality check:
    Say, "Right now there is no Ebola shot."

What fears or concerns do your kids have about Ebola?

Image © Corbis

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