Everywhere I look, there are headlines about influenza and how serious the illness can be for the young and elderly. Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is seeing a record number of flu cases. We have had more positive cases in the last two weeks than during the busiest week of the H1N1 pandemic.

flu So what can friends and families do to show support and love when a child of a family member or friend gets sick and is hospitalized? I’ve talked with nurses and other family support staff to find out the best ways you can help during times like these.

1. Help Children's Family Resource Center provide meals and snacks to families.
You can do that by:

2. Help out at home.
While spending time with their children in the hospital, families need help keeping their lives outside of the hospital going. Volunteer to help with things like meal planning, child care and transportation, pet care, household chores and communicating to friends and family.

CaringBridge, one of Children’s partners, provides the "Support Planner Tool" that helps friends and family work together to coordinate helpful tasks.

3. Provide a life-saving donation of blood and platelets.
Some of the treatments for our most severely ill patients with the flu require blood products for their treatment and recovery. Donations can be made at Memorial Blood Centers or the American Red Cross.

4. Make a donation now to Children’s most urgent needs.
Children's needs your help to support our most urgent needs. We never turn a child away and are grateful to our generous community for the support that allows us to provide some of the best medical care in the world – regardless of a family’s ability to pay. All donations can be made in tribute to a friend or loved one.

Margie Nelson works for the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota Foundation and focuses her time on supporting families during and after their stay Children’s.