Swine Flu (Swine Influenza A (H1N1)): Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

Swine influenza A virus infection (swine flu) can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. People with swine flu also can have vomiting and diarrhea. Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Severe disease with pneumonia, respiratory failure and even death is possible with swine flu infection. Certain groups might be more likely to develop a severe illness from swine flu infection, such as persons with chronic medical conditions. Sometimes bacterial infections may occur at the same time as or after infection with influenza viruses and lead to pneumonias, ear infections, or sinus infections.

The following information can help you provide safer care at home for sick persons during a flu pandemic.

How Swine Flu Spreads

The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else's mouth or nose) before washing their hands.

People with swine flu who are cared for at home should:

  • check with their health care provider about any special care they might need if they are pregnant or have a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or emphysema

  • check with their health care provider about whether they should take antiviral medications

  • stay home for 7 days after the start of illness and fever is gone

  • get plenty of rest

  • drink clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from being dehydrated

  • cover coughs and sneezes. Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often and especially after using tissues and after coughing or sneezing into hands.

  • avoid close contact with others – do not go to work or school while ill

  • be watchful for emergency warning signs (see below) that might indicate you need to seek medical attention