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The flu and you

The University of Kansas Hospital Flu Shot Information

What is the best way to prevent the flu?

What should I do if I have flu-like symptoms?

How do I know if I have H1N1 (swine flu)?

If I have symptoms, should I go to the doctor's office or emergency room?

If I have flu-like symptoms at this time, does it mean I have H1N1?

Who has the greatest risk of serious complications from H1N1?

Can I get the H1N1 vaccine?

What about the seasonal flu vaccine?

What is the best way to prevent the flu?

  • Cover your cough.
  • Wash your hands often and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.

What should I do if I have flu-like symptoms?

  • Stay home. Do not go to work or school. Staying home will limit the spread of the disease.
  • At home, isolate yourself as much as possible from other family members.
  • Don't share drinks or utensils; keep common areas clean.
  • Get plenty of rest and drink clear fluids, such as water, broth or sports drinks.
  • Cover your cough. Use and dispose of paper tissues after each cough or sneeze. In case of a sudden cough or sneeze, use your elbow to cover your mouth and nose to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.
  • Most importantly, wash hands regularly and thoroughly. Use hand sanitizers if possible. Avoid handshakes, kissing and hugs.
  • Take over-the-counter medications to lessen flu symptoms.  Do not give products with aspirin to children or teenagers because of the possible risk of Reye's syndrome.
  • Do not return to work or school until fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines such as Tylenol or Advil.
  • Do not visit hospitalized or high-risk family members or friends.

How do I know if I have H1N1 (swine flu)?

Symptoms are similar to seasonal flu and include:

  • Abrupt fever of 100°F or more
  • Cough, sore throat, runny nose
  • Aches, chills, fatigue
  • Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting

The only sure way to know if the cause of flu-like symptoms is H1N1 or another flu virus is to have a lab test.  However, federal and state health officials are recommending limiting H1N1 tests to patients who require hospitalization.

Illness with the new H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe. While most people who have been sick have recovered without medical treatment, hospitalizations and deaths from infection with this virus have occurred.

If I have symptoms, should I go to the doctor's office or emergency room?

Each individual patient needs to decide whether to seek treatment. It is expected that most people will recover without needing medical care.

However, you should know that physicians are being asked to limit the use of antiviral medications to high risk populations or hospitalized patients with severe flu symptoms. (See “Who has the greatest risk of serious complications from H1N1?”) Your doctor’s office will advise you based on your condition and medical history.

Health officials recommend that patients with the following symptoms should seek immediate medical care:

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • A child so irritable that he or she does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

If I have flu-like symptoms at this time, does it mean I have H1N1?

No, seasonal flu viruses are around as well.

Who has the greatest risk of serious complications from H1N1?

Anyone can get H1N1, but health officials say it seems to hit some groups harder than others and these groups are different than the seasonal high-risk flu groups.

The high-risk groups for H1N1 include:

  • Pregnant women
  • People between 6 months and 24 years
  • People 25–64 who have chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems (asthma, diabetes, etc.)

Older people are not considered high risk because federal health officials report that many may have antibodies that appear to minimize H1N1's impact.

Who can get the H1N1 vaccine?

The vaccine has just been approved and the first vaccine should be available in October. However, since supplies will be limited at first, federal officials have established a priority list of who will receive the first vaccine supplies. This list may be further narrowed if supplies are extremely limited.

  • Pregnant women
  • Family members and caregivers for children younger than 6 months (infants can't be vaccinated)
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel who have direct contact with patients or infectious material.
  • Children 6 months to 4 years
  • Children 5 to 18 years old who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk. The conditions include chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, liver, cognitive neurologic/neuromuscular, hematologic or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus) and immunosuppression (including immnosupression caused by medications or by HIV.)

Note that federal health authorities believe a single shot of the vaccine will offer protection within 8 to 10 days for most of the population. However, children from 6 months to 9 years may require two shots, one month apart.

Supplies should begin reaching the high risk groups in October and the vaccine could be available for the general population by the end of the year.

What about the seasonal flu vaccine?

The seasonal flu is also a health concern and the public is strongly encouraged to get the seasonal flu vaccine, which will be in good supply. While it does not offer protection against H1N1, it does protect from flu viruses which can have serious impact on the traditional flu groups, such as older people and those with medical complications.