Latest swine flu advice

 

Are you worried about swine flu?

Levels of seasonal flu are increasing across the UK, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency, and the two main strains of flu circulating are influenza B and H1N1 ('swine' flu). This year's flu jab protects against these two strains and H3N2.

Swine Flu information on Directgov - opens new windowH1N1 is more likely to affect younger people and can be serious for pregnant women and anyone with underlying health conditions, such as heart and lung problems, or diabetes.

So all pregnant women, whatever their stage of pregnancy, are being encouraged by the Department of Health to have the flu vaccination.

Swine flu symptoms | Swine flu treatments | Swine flu vaccination for children | Young children and swine flu | Older children and swine flu | Returning to schoolPreventing swine flu infection

Swine flu vaccination if you're pregnant

This winter (2010-11), the seasonal flu vaccine is being offered to all pregnant women, not just women in high-risk groups. 

NHS Choices has more information about the flu jab and how you can get vaccinated.

Swine flu information online

Symptoms of swine flu in adults

Most people who have H1N1 flu, including pregnant women, will have mild symptoms, typical of seasonal (winter) flu.

Common symptoms include:

  • High temperature
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath or cough
  • Body aches
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Occasionally, diarrhoea and vomiting

In rare cases, pregnant women may experience complications such as difficulty breathing, dehydration and pneumonia. Complications are more likely in the second and third trimester.

If you think you may have swine flu, call your GP for an assessment.

Treatments for swine flu

The most important step to take in pregnancy is to treat fever (high temperature). This can be controlled by taking paracetamol, which is known to be safe in pregnancy. The use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, is not recommended in pregnancy.

You should consult your GP or midwife for further advice and avoid taking several over-the-counter medicines every day, since most popular flu medicines contain paracetamol, and their additive effect may mean you inadvertently take too much.

If you're diagnosed with H1N1, you may be given a course of antiviral drugs, either Relenza or Tamiflu. Relenza is recommended as the first choice.

Self-care:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Take any antiviral medicine as prescribed
  • Take medicines such as paracetamol if required

Speak to your GP or midwife if your symptoms persist or are severe.  

Swine flu vaccinations for children

Although under-fives were offered vaccinations last year, and are recognised as a high-priority group, there are currently no plans to renew the flu vaccinations for young children.

Department of Health director of immunisation Professor David Salisbury, in his Mumsnet webchat, said: "Last year when swine flu emerged, it was clear that the under-fives were indeed a risk group. For that reason, we recommended that they should be vaccinated. However, we also saw that many of them got infected and will now be immune against H1N1 (swine flu). At the moment, we are sticking with our usual seasonal flu policy, that doesn't include routine vaccination for under-fives, although this is something that we're looking at for the future."

Pharmacists may offer swine flu vaccinations, although many are refusing to offer it to under-18s. Children with asthma, lung disease or diabetes are able to receive the vaccination on the NHS.

Swine flu symptoms in children

The symptoms of swine flu in children are the same as those in adults. Common symptoms include:

  • High temperature
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath or cough
  • Body aches
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Occasionally, diarrhoea and vomiting


When to call a doctor about your child

The virus is very contagious, so if your doctor thinks your child has the virus they may prefer to give a diagnosis over the phone. Call your GP if your child has two or more of the symptoms above.

If your child is less than a year old, call your GP immediately.

Caring for younger children who have swine flu

Keep your baby or toddler hydrated by giving them lots to drink. You should continue breastfeeding if your child is breast fed (if you also have the virus, current medical advice is that it is safe for you to take Tamiflu or Relenza while you're breastfeeding). 

A paracetamol suspension may help to lower your child's temperature. Don't give any child under 16 aspirin or take aspirin yourself if you're breastfeeding, except on the advice of your doctor.

Your GP will advise on whether or not your child needs antiviral drugs. 

Caring for older children who have swine flu

If your child has been diagnosed with swine flu, make sure they stay at home and drink plenty of liquids. Treat their fever with paracetamol and make sure they get lots of rest. They can take Tamiflu if it's offered by a doctor.

Going back to school after swine flu

Department of Health advice is that children who have a fever or are exhibiting flu-like symptoms should be kept off school until the fever has subsided - this can take between two and seven days.

How to avoid spreading swine flu

  • Wash or clean your hands frequently (particularly after contact with people who are ill)
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue while sneezing or coughing
  • Dispose of used tissues promptly and carefully – bag and bin them
  • Wash hard surfaces (eg worktops, bathroom areas, play mats, changing mats, door knobs) with a domestic cleaner regularly
  • Limit the sharing of children's toys, and wash or wipe toys after use - small toys can be washed in the washing machine on a 30-40C cycle in a pillow case
  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Avoid crowds where possible
  • Ensure your children follow this advice

 

Last updated: over 1 year ago