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Swine Flu Symptoms

Swine Flu Basics


Updated July 16, 2014

Mother Check Daughters Temperature
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Although the name 'swine flu' brings up a lot of extra fear and worry, it is important to note that swine flu is just an influenza A H1N1 virus.

That means that it is just another type of flu virus, just like that causes our typical seasonal flu symptoms. The big difference is that the current swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is new and most of us don't have any immunity to it. That is why it so easily became a pandemic virus (with the ability to cause a global outbreak), because it could easily spread from person to person.

The swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010 has come and gone, but that isn't the end of the 2009 H1N1 virus. It is now a part of the 2010-2011 seasonal flu vaccine and is one of the 3 or 4 flu strains we are seeing this flu season.

Swine Flu Symptoms

According to the CDC, like seasonal flu, symptoms of swine flu infections can include:

  • fever, which is usually high, but unlike seasonal flu, is sometimes absent
  • cough
  • runny nose or stuffy nose
  • sore throat
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue or tiredness, which can be extreme
  • diarrhea and vomiting, sometimes, but more commonly seen than with seasonal flu

Signs of a more serious swine flu infection might include pneumonia and respiratory failure.

If your child has symptoms of swine flu, you should avoid other people and call your pediatrician who might do a rapid flu test to see if he has an influenza A infection. Further testing can then be done to see if it is a swine flu infection. Keep in mind that the rapid flu tests that most pediatricians have in their office can often tell if a child has an influenza A or influenza B infection, but can't identify H1N1 directly. Since there is more than one influenza A virus strain going around this season (H1N1 and H3N2), a positive influenza A test doesn't necessarily mean swine flu.

Swine Flu High Risk Groups

With regular seasonal flu, young children and the elderly are usually thought to be most at risk for serious infections, in addition to people with chronic medical problems. Swine flu high risk groups, people who are thought to be at risk for serious, life-threatening infections, are a little different and can include:

  • pregnant women
  • children under age two years old
  • people with chronic medical problems, such as chronic lung disease, like asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and immunosuppression
  • children and adults with obesity

It is important to keep in mind that unlike seasonal flu, more than half of the hospitalizations and a quarter of the deaths from swine flu are in young people under the age of 25.

Serious Swine Flu Symptoms

As with other conditions, more serious symptoms that would indicate that a child with swine flu would need urgent medical attention include:

  • 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 worse cough

Swine Flu Symptoms vs. a Cold or Sinus Infection

It is important to keep in mind most children with a runny nose or cough will not have flu and will not have to see their pediatrician for swine flu testing.

During cold and flu season, many other childhood conditions are common, including:

What You Need To Know

  • Swine flu likely spreads by direct contact with respiratory secretions of someone that is sick with swine flu, like if they were coughing and sneezing close to you.

  • People with swine flu are likely contagious for one day before and up to seven days after they began to get sick with swine flu symptoms.

  • Droplets from a cough or sneeze can also contaminate surfaces, such as a doorknob, drinking glass, or kitchen counter, although these germs likely don't survive for more than a few hours.

  • Anti-flu medications, including Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir), are available to prevent and treat swine flu in high risk children.

  • Although some people still talk about swine flu, it is important to keep in mind that this year swine flu is really just like another strain of seasonal flu we would see in any other year.


MMWR. Prevention and Control of Influenza with Vaccines. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2010. July 29, 2010 / 59(Early Release);1-62

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