Technically, the term “swine flu” refers to influenza in pigs. Occasionally, pigs transmit influenza viruses to people, mainly to hog farmers and veterinarians. Less often, someone infected with swine flu passes the infection to others.
H1N1 flu signs and symptoms in humans are similar to those of other flu strains:
- Fever (but not always)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Watery, red eyes
- Body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
H1N1 flu symptoms develop about one to three days after you’re exposed to the virus.
When to see a doctor
It’s not necessary to see a doctor if you’re generally healthy and develop flu signs and symptoms, such as fever, cough and body aches. Call your doctor, however, if you have flu symptoms and you’re pregnant or you have a chronic disease, such as asthma, emphysema, diabetes or a heart condition, because you have a higher risk of complications from the flu.
If you’ve traveled to an area where many people are affected by swine flu (H1N1 flu), you may have been exposed to the virus, particularly if you spent time in large crowds.
Swine farmers and veterinarians have the highest risk of true swine flu because of their exposure to pigs.
Influenza complications include:
- Worsening of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and asthma
- Neurological signs and symptoms, ranging from confusion to seizures
- Respiratory failure
Treatments and drugs
Most cases of flu, including H1N1 flu, require only symptom relief. If you have a chronic respiratory disease, your doctor may prescribe additional medications to help relieve your symptoms.
The antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir are sometimes prescribed within the first day or two of symptoms to reduce the severity of your symptoms, and possibly the risk of complications. But, flu viruses can develop resistance to these drugs.
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you develop any type of flu, these measures may help ease your symptoms:
- Drink plenty of liquids. Choose water, juice and warm soups to prevent dehydration.
- Get more sleep to help your immune system fight infection.
- Consider pain relievers. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, cautiously. Also, use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
- Contain your coughs and sneezes.
- Avoid contact.
- Reduce exposure within your household.