Fighting Swine Flu

Everything you need to know about H1N1: what it is, how to get rid of it, and when to seek medical help.

Fighting Swine Flu

At 27, Nicholas DeVan wasn’t particularly concerned about H1N1. The Montrealer took care of himself; he didn’t smoke, washed his hands regularly, and kick­boxed and cycled to keep fit. But the day after a rainy hike in New York’s Adirondack mountains last June, he developed a high fever and breathing problems. An asthmatic, DeVan used his inhaler, but four days later, his breathing problems were worsening. He went to Emergency, where doctors tested him for H1N1 and pneumonia. They soon moved him to intensive care at another hospital.

Once his condition started to improve, DeVan began eating as much as he could to build his strength. “It was easy to eat hospital food,” he laughs, “my taste buds didn’t work!” DeVan was released after 12 days in hospital, and, though he says he has no lasting effects, he was shaken to learn that doctors had feared for his life. He will never know how he caught H1N1 and advises people with symptoms to take measures to avoid spreading it to others so they don’t go through the same ordeal.

What is it?

H1N1 is an illness with symptoms similar to those of the regular flu (fever, coughing, sore throat and fatigue). The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic influenza virus of moderate severity.

How do I kick it?

Most people recover within a week, without medical treatment. Antiviral drugs may be prescribed to patients with underlying medical conditions.

When should I go to the doctor?

Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • difficulty breathing
  • turning blue
  • bloody or coloured sputum
  • chest pain
  • altered mental status
  • high fever lasting more than 3 days
  • low blood pressure.

For more information about the H1N1 virus and to locate a vaccine clinic near you, visit the following sites:

This article was originally published in the November 2009 issue of Reader’s Digest. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!

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