Symptoms of swine flu

It is important that as swine flu spreads, you know the symptoms of the disease so you can recognise it in yourself and others at an early stage.  Please read this page and consider your symptoms carefully before using the National Pandemic Flu Service mentioned below.  So far, most swine flu cases have been mild, with symptoms similar to those of seasonal flu. Only a small number of people have had more serious symptoms.  If you or a member of your family has any of the following symptoms and a temperature of 38°C or above, you may have swine flu.

It is important that as swine flu spreads, you know the symptoms of the disease so you can recognise it in yourself and others at an early stage.  Please read this page and consider your symptoms carefully before using the National Pandemic Flu Service mentioned below.  So far, most swine flu cases have been mild, with symptoms similar to those of seasonal flu. Only a small number of people have had more serious symptoms.  If you or a member of your family has any of the following symptoms and a temperature of 38°C or above, you may have swine flu.

The typical symptoms are:

  • a sudden fever (a high body temperature of 38°C/100.4°F or above), and
  • a sudden cough.

Other symptoms may include:

  • headache,
  • tiredness,
  • chills,
  • aching muscles,
  • limb or joint pain,
  • diarrhoea or stomach upset,
  • sore throat,
  • runny nose,
  • sneezing, or
  • loss of appetite.

Checking symptoms
It makes sense to have a working thermometer at home, as an increase in temperature is one of the main symptoms. If you are unsure how to use a thermometer, go to How to take someone’s temperature.  If you are still concerned you may have swine flu, stay at home and check your symptoms using the online National Pandemic Flu Service.  Call your GP directly if:

  • you have a serious existing illness that weakens your immune system, such as cancer,
  • you are pregnant,
  • you have a sick child under one,
  • your condition suddenly gets much worse, or
  • your condition is still getting worse after seven days (five for a child).

Note: the National Pandemic Flu Service is a new online service that will assess your symptoms and, if needed, provide an authorisation number that can be used to collect antiviral medication from a local collection point. For those who do not have internet access, the same service can be accessed by telephone on:

Telephone: 0800 151 3100
Minicom: 0800 151 3200
For more information on the National Pandemic Flu Service go to Flu service: Q&A.

High-risk groups

For most people, swine flu is a mild illness. Some people get better by staying in bed, drinking plenty of water and taking over-the-counter flu medication.  However, some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness if they catch swine flu, and will need to start taking antiviral medication as it is confirmed that they have it.  It is already known that you are particularly at risk if you have:

  • chronic (long-term) lung disease,
  • chronic heart disease,
  • chronic kidney disease,
  • chronic liver disease,
  • chronic neurological disease (neurological disorders include motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease),
  • immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment) or
  • diabetes mellitus.

Also at risk are:

patients who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past three years, pregnant women, people aged 65 and older, and young children under five.  It is vital that people in these higher-risk groups who catch swine flu get antivirals and start taking them as soon as possible.

Outlook

For most people, the illness appears to be mild. Cases have been confirmed in all age groups, but children and younger people seem much more likely to be affected. To date, fewer cases have been confirmed in older adults.
For a minority of people, the virus has caused severe illness. In many of these cases, other factors have been identified that are likely to have contributed to the severity of the illness.   Worldwide, just over 0.4% of the laboratory-confirmed cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) have died. This is a similar rate to ordinary flu. The true number of swine flu cases is likely to be significantly higher than that reported to WHO and therefore the figure of 0.4% is likely to be an overestimate of the death rate.
Where complications do occur, they tend to be caused by the virus affecting the lungs. Infections such as pneumonia can develop.

Share this

Posted by

Chris Wareham