Swine flu: Warning signs and symptoms, treatments, key precautions to avoid H1N1

Updated on Sep 09, 2022 10:49 AM IST

Doctors reveal what are the key precautions required to avoid swine flu or H1N1, the symptoms and warning signs to look out for if someone has caught it, treatments to overcome it and special precautions and care are required specifically for children and the elderly

Swine flu: Warning signs and symptoms, treatments, key precautions to avoid H1N1 (cottonbro)
Swine flu: Warning signs and symptoms, treatments, key precautions to avoid H1N1 (cottonbro)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

H1N1 is simply one of the strains of the influenza virus, that causes H1N1 flu, also commonly called “swine flu” as it was originally found in pigs. The virus is quite contagious and spreads between humans quickly and effectively, causing symptoms similar to those of the regular human flu.

Symptoms and warning signs:

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Vikram Vora, Medical Director, India Subcontinent – International SOS, shared, “The symptoms and warning signs of H1N1 flu are very similar to regular human flu and are caused by the growth of the virus in the cells of the nose, throat and lungs. These include fever (with or without chills), sore throat, cough, runny nose/stuffy nose, watering of the eyes, headache or heaviness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and at times, diarrhoea. Children may sometimes experience difficulty in breathing, chest pain, dehydration and rarely, seizures. These symptoms improve within a few days after infection.”

Echoing the same, Dr Kishor Sathe, Specialist Emergency Medicine at PD Hinduja Hospital and MRC in Mumbai said that the warning signs to look out for if someone has caught swine flu or H1N1 are itching in the throat, running nose, fever, body ache, high-grade fever myalgia, cough with expectoration and breathlessness as they are some of the key symptoms. Adding to the list, Dr Anant Pandhare, Medical Director at Dr Hedgewar Hospital in Maharashtra's Aurangabad, mentioned, “Some of the most common symptoms are chills, fever, cough, diarrhoea, vomiting, headache, throat pain, body ache, running nose, breathlessness and requirement of O2 in some cases who are having comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension. Severe symptoms of swine flu in young kids and infants include dyspnea, apnea, tachypnea, dehydration etc. In some cases, acute respiratory failure can occur.”

Treatments:

While Dr Kishor Sathe revealed that Oselatamivir is the drug to treat H1N1, Dr Vikram Vora said, “Most people who get infected will require only supportive treatment, primarily aimed at providing symptomatic relief. Staying hydrated, taking fever and pain medication and resting usually help. There are antiviral drugs available that may be prescribed in the early days of the infection to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms.”

He added, “Drugs like Oseltamivir are used but there is a possibility of the virus becoming resistant to it of not correctly used. Hence, the usage must be medically directed and restricted to those at high risk for complications (hospitalized/institutionalized patients, pregnant women, young children with respiratory illnesses, adults with obesity or chronic diseases, those undergoing immunosuppression and older individuals above 60 years of age).”

Key precautions to avoid swine flu or H1N1:

Insisting that prevention is possible, Dr Vikram Vora asserted that it rests on the adoption of basic measures like:

1. Being informed – it is critical to rely on credible medical information for awareness, when it comes to infectious diseases

2. Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when one coughs or sneezes. Be sure to dispose the tissue immediately after use, in a safe manner

3. Frequent handwashing with soap and water or use of hand sanitizers

4. Avoiding close contact with those who are obviously or suspected to be sick

5. Isolation to prevent spreading it to others

6. Most importantly, getting an annual influenza vaccine helps reduce the risk and severity of H1N1.

Dr Kishor Sathe suggested, “Avoid crowded and closed places; if you have symptoms use a face mask. Don’t sneeze in open; if you are not wearing a mask then sneeze on your elbow. Keep a healthy diet and keep your diabetes in control.”

According to Dr Anant Pandhare, “Despite the contagious nature and severity of this disease, there are several ways to prevent it. To prevent swine flu frequently wash hands with soaps or hand sanitisers, do not touch your nose, mouth, and eyes as the virus can survive out in the open on any surface, stay at home and isolate yourself if you are ill and avoid large gatherings when swine flu is in season.”

Special precautions and care required specifically for children and the elderly:

Dr Kishor Sathe advised, “Children are required to have good sleep and a healthy diet. If they are having symptoms then do gargling and wear masks, the same thing applies to elderly people as well.”

Highlighting that children and the elderly are especially prone to developing complications of influenza (regardless of whether it is caused by H1N1 or other flu virus strains), Dr Vikram Vora pointed out, “Young children, especially those with other respiratory illnesses may face an exacerbation of lung disease when infected with H1N1, manifesting as chest pain, fever and rarely seizures. Elderly individuals may also develop complications and must be protected.”

He recommended some essential protective measures for these vulnerable groups:

1. Keeping them away from other sick or apparently sick individuals

2. Initiation of prompt treatment under competent medical supervision

3. Avoidance of aspirin (in children and adolescents) for pain and fever relief

4. Yearly administration of Influenza vaccine to young children and the elderly

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