Last Spring, we got an unexpected flu scare when the H1N1 (or Swine) Flu crashed onto the scene. Now that flu season is right around the corner, it’s important to know the differences between seasonal Influenza and the H1N1 Flu, what to do if you get either one and how you can protect yourself and your family from contracting them.
Though the two virus strains bring a slew of similar symptoms—high fevers, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue—many who caught the H1N1 Flu also experienced nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Since the sickness can develop rapidly, get to a doctor as soon as any of the following red flags appear: shortness of breath, low blood pressure, chest pain, altered mental state, turning blue, bloody or colored phlegm or high fever lasting more than three days.
If you’re too sick to do your normal activities or were exposed to someone who had flu symptoms, contact your doc for a prescription of antivirals, suggests Carolina Sandoval, a registered nurse with the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. And this applies to both types of flu. “These measures prevent the spread of the flu and studies show that treatment initiated early, within the first 48 hours of illness onset is more likely to provide benefit,” Sandoval says. You’ll also want to clear your schedule and put yourself on house arrest. Trust us, no one will be too happy to see you anyway.
Now to prevent falling ill in the first place, there are two separate vaccines available – one for the regular flu and one for the H1N1 flu—and you can get both, Sandoval says, but there are five groups targeted for initial vaccinations against the Swine Flu virus:
- Pregnant women (who are most susceptible to Swine Flu complications)
- People who live with or care for children under six months old
- People between six months and 24 years old
- Health care and emergency medical services personnel
- People 25 to 64 years old who are at higher risk because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems
The first batches should be available in mid-October and since the federal government is funding the vaccines, they should be available for a minimal charge or totally free.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of all infections may be transmitted through our hands. So wash them and wash them well! To kill off those germies, spend at least 20 seconds washing your palms and the backs of your hands. Cough and sneeze into a tissue and then throw it out, don’t rub your eyes and keep your hands out of mouth.
- Children seem to be perfect little germ carriers no matter what you do and now that school’s back in session, it’s important that you teach them the importance of proper hygiene. BabyGanics The Germinator Foaming Hand Sanitizer ($4, babyganics.com) is a great way to disinfect those little hands. The natural, non-toxic formula comes in an easy-to-carry travel size so you can pop it in their bookbag and send them on their way.
- For an alcohol-based solution, check out Infectiguard Hand Sanitizer with Moisturizer by Dr. Fresh ($3, drfresh.com). The Vitamin E and Aloe-infused lotion moisturizes and softens your hands instead of zapping them dry.
- In case the second wave of Swine Flu requires home confinement, Consumer Reports details what should be in your Home Emergency Kit, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.