What Should I Do if I Think I Have Swine Flu?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 08, 2010
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What should I do if I think I have swine flu?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is a senior medical editor at Caring.com and a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics. She also provides housecalls and geriatric consultations in San Francisco.

If you notice what you think are flu symptoms, don't panic. For the 2010-2011 flu season, experts do expect that the H1N1 virus (formerly called swine flu) will still be around. However, protection against this flu strain has now been incorporated into the seasonal flu vaccine. Every winter, thousands of people get the flu. Most will recover and be fine with minimal medical treatment needed. Here are the steps to follow.

Make sure you don't have any of the danger signs of serious illness. If you do, don't delay in getting medical attention.

Serious symptoms are:

  • 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

If you aren't sure how sick you are, or you have concerns, call your doctor. Discuss your situation with an advice nurse over the phone.

Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Water, juice, soup, and herbal teas are all good sources of fluids.

Avoid going out in public until you've been free of fever for more than 24 hours. It's important that your fever-free period not include the use of acetaminophen.

Consider wearing a mask at home. This will help protect your family or anyone you share your house with.

Don't worry about getting tested. Remember, the CDC is no longer tracking milder cases of H1N1, so there's no need to seek testing. Just get medical help if your symptoms are severe. (You'll get tested if you're hospitalized.)

Consider vaccination. Even once you've recovered, think about taking this step. Most winters, there's more than one strain of flu going around; getting the flu doesn't always provide immunity from other strains. Although most people recover fine from influenza, every year in the U.S. approximately 36,000 people die of the flu. Vaccination is the best protection for you and for your community, even if you get vaccinated later in the season.