Swine Flu: 10 Things Not to Do (cont.)

The U.K.'s National Health System notes that when someone sick with flu talks, sneezes, spits, or coughs, infected flu droplets can travel at least 1 meter (about 3.3. feet). The NHS recommends that when you use a tissue, you throw it out after one use.


7. Don't panic.

Swine flu is a pandemic, but so far, it's been a "moderate" pandemic, according to WHO Director Margaret Chan, MD.

That could change. Health officials have said all along that they expect to see a range of severity in swine flu cases, including more hospitalizations and deaths, and they've cautioned that the virus could change and become harsher.

"The overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a fully recovery within a week, often in the absence of any form of medical treatment," Chan said in a speech given in Cancun, Mexico, on July 2 at an international health meeting about H1N1 flu.

Chan noted that pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions are at higher risk for complications. She also pointed out that "for reasons that are poorly understood, some deaths are occurring in perfectly healthy young people," and that some cases quickly become life-threatening.

Chan recommends vigilance, not panic or complacency.

"We cannot be alarmist," Chan said in her Cancun speech. "At the same time, if we are overly reassuring, patients in genuine need of treatment, where rapid emergency care can make a life-and-death difference, may be lulled into waiting too long."

8. Don't leave home if you've got flu-like symptoms.

Those symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue; diarrhea and vomiting may also be symptoms of swine flu.

Unless you're going to get medical care, stay home to avoid infecting others. That means not going to work or school, not running your normal errands, and not traveling. By staying home, you'll help prevent other people from getting sick.

9. Don't rush to the emergency room unless you have certain symptoms.

The CDC urges people to seek emergency medical care for a sick child with any of these symptoms:

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

And here is the CDC's list of symptoms that should trigger emergency medical care for 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
  • Having a high fever for more than three days is another danger sign, according to the WHO.

10. If you're a parent, don't forget to teach your kids swine flu prevention.

Children need to do the same things as adults -- stay home when sick, avoid sick people, cough and sneeze into a tissue, and wash their hands.

The CDC recommends teaching kids to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice while washing their hands with soap and water, so that they wash their hands for 20 seconds. Another CDC suggestion: Tell kids to stay at least 6 feet away from people who are sick.

Those pointers also work for grown-ups.

CDC: "Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine."
CDC: "Interim Recommendations for Facemask and Respirator Use to Reduce Novel Influenza A(H1N1) Virus Transmission." 
CDC: "Novel H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and You."
CDC:" General Business and Workplace Guidance for the Prevention of Novel Influenza A(H1N1) Flu in Workers."
National Health System: "Alert: Important Information About Swine Flu."
National Health System: "Swine Flu Information."
World Health Organization: "Influenza A(H1N1): Lessons Learned and Preparedness."
CDC: "What to Do If You Get Flu-Like Symptoms: Emergency Warning Signs."
CDC: "Advice for Parents on Talking to Children About Novel H1N1 Flu (Formerly Swine Flu) Concerns." 
World Health Organization: "Behavioral Interventions for Reducing the Transmission and Impact of Influenza A(H1N1) Virus: A
Framework for Communication Strategies."
Reviewed on July 06, 2009
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Last Editorial Review: 7/17/2009