Also known as H1N1, swine flu gets its name from a flu virus in pigs. Under normal circumstances, swine flu does not infect humans, but it is possible. The infection can cause a variety of symptoms. Some of these symptoms are very similar to other types of the flu, but as treatment differs, proper diagnosis is key. People can catch swine flu just like other flu viruses.
An inhaled virus causes swine flu, and as a result, the infection afflicts the respiratory system. When pigs are ill, they can transfer the virus to their owners or others around them. This virus, in particular, attacks the lining in the throat, lungs, and nose. Swine flu is not transmitted by eating pork but by inhaling or touching a contaminated surface, then rubbing the eyes or nose.
The symptoms of swine flu are very similar to other strains of the flu virus. Infected individuals may have a fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat, and itchy, watery eyes. These symptoms may lead people to think they have just developed a cold. However, body aches, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting point t something more serious. People generally start to feel symptoms one to three days following exposure to the virus.
In most cases of swine flu, it is not necessary to see a doctor. However, if you have a persistent fever that doesn’t go away with pain relievers, seek medical attention. Also, if you are pregnant and develop the swine flu, you should consult your doctor to find out what treatments are safe for you and your unborn child. If you have a chronic disease, you may also want to see a medical provider. Some illnesses like autoimmune diseases weaken the immune system and can cause individuals to experience more symptoms and take longer to recover.
Pain relievers can help with fever, body aches, and headaches associated with swine flu. Other medications relieve nausea and diarrhea. In some instances, the doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine, if the symptoms started only one or two days prior. People with chronic respiratory diseases should contact their doctors as soon as flu-like symptoms appear.
Some people may be at a higher risk of developing swine flu. People over the age of 65 or in nursing homes are more likely to contract the condition and to experience complications. Also, children and pregnant women face an increased risk. It is critical to see a medical provider if you are pregnant or have children who have symptoms of swine flu. People who have autoimmune disorders and take certain medications may also be at risk for complications.
There are some complications associated with swine flu, especially for children, the elderly, and pregnant women. People with asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases can experience long-lasting symptoms. It is also possible for swine flu to turn into pneumonia, especially for those with chronic conditions. Pneumonia can be extremely dangerous and can sometimes lead to hospitalization. The elderly and those with chronic diseases may be at a higher risk of respiratory failure, which can impair lung function and lead to decreased oxygen levels. Finally, it is possible, though rare, to develop neurological problems that can ultimately lead to seizures.
To prevent swine flu, doctors recommend that everyone get a flu shot. These shots contain small amounts of the flu virus that are introduced into the body to help develop antibodies that protect against the conditions. Individuals who are already infected should stay home to prevent spread. Careful hand-washing also help prevent spreading bacteria and viruses to other, and everyone should cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.
When you have swine flu, it is imperative to get plenty of rest so your body has the energy to fight off the infection. If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, stay hydrated by drinking products that contain electrolytes, such as energy drinks. Dry toast, soup, and crackers are easy to keep down after vomiting and keep the body nourished. OTC pain relievers can help alleviate symptoms such as fever, headache, or body aches and pains.
Flu shots are an essential step in making sure that you don’t get the swine flu or other flu viruses. They are available at your doctor's office and even some pharmacies. The CDC recommends anyone over the age of six months get an annual flu shot.
The flu vaccine is available in the form of a shot and a nasal spray. The injection goes into the upper arm and traditionally covers the swine flu and two other flu viruses. The side effects of the shot are minor and usually only last for a day or two with symptoms such as soreness at the injection site, slight fever, and general aches. The nasal vaccine is sprayed into the nose and is made from the flu virus. You cannot get the flu from the shot or nasal spray. The side effects of the nasal vaccine are a runny nose, headache, sore throat, and cough. Discuss these options with your doctor to decide which will work best for you.
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