H1N1 and seasonal flu: What to do if you get sick

  • Published
  • By Capt. Brenda Dehn
  • 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron
The Center for Disease Control expects the H1N1 flu to cause many illnesses in the United States, along with seasonal flu. The following information is what people need to know if they have H1N1 or seasonal flu.

Some of the symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Peterson personnel who experience flu-like symptoms should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Most people with 2009 H1N1 have had mild illness and have not needed medical care or antiviral drugs. The same is true of the seasonal flu.

While anyone with complications should talk to a health care provider, certain groups should take extra care to ensure they are seen by a medical professional. These groups are:

- Children younger than 5 years, but especially under 2 years old, and adults 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- Patients with cancer, blood disorders, lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, kidney and/or liver disorders, neurological disorders (including nervous system, brain or spinal cord), neuromuscular disorders (including muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis), weakened immune systems, and people with AIDS.

Also, it's possible for healthy people to develop severe illness from the flu, so anyone concerned about their illness should consult a health care provider.

There are several warning signs and anyone who has them should seek immediate medical care. In children, some of these signs are: fast breathing or difficulty breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough, or fever with a rash.

In adults, some of these signs are; difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion or severe or persistent vomiting.

Emergency rooms should be used for people who are very sick, so patients are asked not to visit the emergency room if they are mildly ill. Individuals with warning signs of flu sickness should go to the emergency room. Patients who become ill or get flu symptoms and who are at high risk of flu complications or are concerned about their illness should call their health care provider for advice. Anyone visiting an emergency room who is not sick with the flu may catch it from people who do have it.

Is there medicine to treat the 2009 H1N1?

There are drugs doctors may prescribe for treating both seasonal and 2009 H1N1 called antivirals. These antiviral drugs are used mainly to treat people who are very sick, who need to be hospitalized, and to treat sick people who are more likely to get serious flu complications. Health care providers will decide whether antiviral drugs are needed to treat their illness. Most people with 2009 H1N1 have had mild illness and have not needed medical care or antiviral drugs; the same is true of seasonal flu.

Patients should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone except to get medical care. Most fevers should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol. Patients should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings.

Other important tips are to stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick, wearing a face mask outside, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others.

For information, refer to the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu.