H1N1 Symptoms Plus Protection & Prevention


Protect Yourself and Your Family against H1N1

What is It?

The H1N1 virus (initially called Swine flu) is a new strain of the influenza virus that has been spreading in the United States since April 2009.  As far as health officials know, it spreads from person to person just like the more common strains of influenza. Since June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization has considered H1N1 a pandemic.

Most people who are diagnosed with H1N1 recover without medical treatment. However, because medical authorities don’t know how it will behave during flu season, and because it has caused severe illness and death in a few cases, please exercise caution.

How do I get it?

That’s where we are in familiar territory. The H1N1 virus spreads the way seasonal influenza does – an infected person coughs or sneezes, you touch an infected surface or hand (or get coughed or sneezed on) and then touch your mouth or eyes or anything else that isn’t protected by that first component of your immune system, your skin. Since you can’t go around in a bubble for the duration of flu season, it’s important to wash your hands often, avoid touching your mouth, eyes, etc., and cover coughs and sneezes just in case.

If you do become infected, realize that you can spread the virus even after your symptoms are gone. Continue to wash your hands, cover your mouth, and avoid close contact for a few days after you start to feel better.

How do I know if I have it?

The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to seasonal flu symptoms, and include fever, cough, runny nose, aches, chills, and fatigue. In some cases, people reported diarrhea and vomiting.  If you experience these symptoms, check with your doctor and try to avoid going out in public.

What are the differences between the symptoms of a cold and the H1N1 virus?

The following table can also help you tell the difference between a common cold and H1N1 Flu:

Symptom Cold H1N1 Flu
Fever Fever is rare with a cold Fever is usually present with the flu in up to 80% of all flu cases. A temperature of 100 degrees Farenheight or higher for 3 to 4 days is associated with the flu.
Coughing A hacking, productive (mucus- producing) cough is often present with a cold. A non-productive (non-mucus producing) cough is usually present with the flu (sometimes referred to as dry cough).
Aches Slight body aches and pains can be part of a cold. Severe aches and pains are common with the flu.
Stuffy Nose Stuffy nose is commonly present with a cold and typically resolves spontaneously within a week. Stuffy nose is not commonly present with the flu.
Chills Chills are uncommon with a cold. 60% of people who have the flu experience chills.
Tiredness Tiredness is fairly mild with a cold. Tiredness is moderate to severe with the flu.
Sneezing Sneezing is commonly present with a cold. Sneezing is not common with the flu.
Sudden Symptoms Cold symptoms tend to develop over a few days. The flu has a rapid onset within 3-6 hours. The flu hits hard and includes sudden symptoms like high fever, aches and pains.
Headache A headache is fairly uncommon with a cold. A headache is very common with the flu, present in 80% of flu cases.
Sore Throat Sore throat is commonly present with a cold. Sore throat is not commonly present with the flu.
Chest Discomfort Chest discomfort is mild to moderate with a cold. Chest discomfort is often severe with the flu.

Of course, if you’re unsure if you have the flu, it’s best to consult with your physician.

What can I do to prevent it?

When and where available, H1N1 vaccinations are a recommended precaution you can take. However, there are several everyday things you can do to reduce your risk of getting or spreading the virus:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Throw tissues in the trash after you use them. (Please don’t leave your used tissues on the dining room table. It’s gross and a health risk.)
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or with alcohol-based instant hand sanitizers. During the spring there was a run on these, so you may want to pick up a bottle just in case.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth (especially after bowling, because we are really not sure about what’s growing in the bowling ball holes) to avoid spreading germs.
  • We know that you love sick people and want to take them chicken soup, but just push it through the mail slot or something. Keep you distance until they’re better.
  • If you get sick, the CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks, and we recommend you avoid hugging the people who want to bring you chicken soup.
  • Stock up on the medicine, tissues and hand sanitizers you might need now so that you don’t have to go out in public once you get sick. These are good things to have on hand anyway, and if you’ve already got them you won’t risk infecting the rest of us.