What Are the Symptoms of H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) or of Seasonal Flu?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 01, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What are the symptoms of H1N1 flu, also called swine flu?


Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at BetterHealthWhileAging.net. She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

The symptoms of H1N1 flu, also called swine flu, are essentially the same as the symptoms of normal seasonal flu. The most common signs of flu are fever, cough, and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose, and feeling especially tired.

Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms can last from a few days to up to a week or more.

For most people, the flu causes a "self-limited" illness, which means one feels sick but eventually gets better on one's own. In these cases, doctors don't usually prescribe antiviral medications.

Some people, however, develop symptoms that are signs of a more serious influenza infection. These include:

  • Fast breathing, difficulty breathing, and/or chest pain

  • Severe vomiting

  • Signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination (or decreased tears, in an infant), or dizziness when standing

  • Blue or purple discoloration around the mouth

  • Confusion that wasn't present before the illness

  • Convulsions or seizures

People with the above symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, as they may need hospitalization.

If you have any doubt about whether you or someone in your care may need medical care for possible influenza, contact a medical professional for more information. Many doctors' offices and health plans have nurses available by phone for this purpose. This is especially important for people who are part of a high-risk group, such as young children, pregnant women, or adults with chronic illnesses.

Remember that the CDC is not trying to track all influenza cases. If you think you might have the flu, it generally no longer matters whether it's H1N1 or not, especially if you aren't sick enough to be hospitalized. For most people, the most important things to do are to take care of yourself at home so you can get better, try to avoid getting other people sick, and contact a medical professional if you think you might be sick enough to require medical care.