You Have Swine Flu -- Now What?
Michael W. Smith, MD
I've probably hit you over the head enough about not worrying too much about getting swine flu. But what happens if you actually do get it?
Earlier this week, someone asked "If your child gets sick with symptoms of the flu, do you go to the pediatricians office, hospital, where? Is there a test for this flu strain? How are people being treated that suspect they may have it?"
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But what about for older adults -- "Hi Doc, I am 67 years old and I could tell you when the last time I had any type of flu. Should I be worried? Also I have not heard anybody say what to do if you get it, like take aspirin, drink lots of fluids, bed rest or what?"
I bet many people wonder what it would feel like to get the swine flu. You probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between swine flu and the normal flu that you've likely had a time or two.
Swine flu symptoms, and regular flu symptoms, are fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. The difference is that more people with swine flu seem to have diarrhea and vomiting, which we don't usually see with the regular flu.
For most people, the only treatment that would be needed for swine flu is also the same as regular flu treatment. Make sure you get plenty of fluids so you don't become dehydrated, take over-the-counter medications to help relieve symptoms, such as congestion and coughing, and get plenty of rest.
For children, particularly young children, you need to watch them closely to make sure they're not getting dehydrated, not overly lethargic, and not having any breathing difficulty. If you're concerned about these or any other symptom, it's always best to call or see your pediatrician.
Some people might benefit from taking antiviral drugs. The good news is that the flu drugs Relenza and Tamiflu are effective against the swine flu virus. However, the trick is to take them very early -- within 48 hours of developing symptoms. They can help lessen the severity of the flu, help you recover more quickly, and may help prevent serious complications from the flu.
While anyone can take an antiviral drug if your doctor feels it's right for you, those at high risk from swine flu complications, such as the very young, the very old, pregnant women, or those with a heart or lung problem, would benefit the most.
If your doctor does suspect you may have swine flu, there is a simple swab test that can confirm the infection. It takes a few days to get the results back so you would be treated while waiting on the results.
And lastly, keep in mind that even if you get the swine flu, chances are very great that you will recover just fine in just a few days.
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