Now that America has declared a state of swine flu public health emergency, you may be asking yourself - what am I supposed to do? Here is a list of ten practical steps you can take to prepare and protect yourself and your family.
1) Know the symptoms - Here are some of the symptoms that sound like swine flu - fevers over 100 degrees, body aches, cough, runny nose, and sometimes, nausea and diarrhea. It’s also useful to know if you might have had an exposure - either by recent travel to Mexico, or to the areas of known cases so far in America - California, Texas, New York, Ohio and Kansas. Or you may have been exposed to a sick person who came from those areas. The incubation time for swine flu is believed to be pretty short - 48-72 hours, and the virus seems to spread easily between people. If this sounds like your symptoms, then what do you do?
2) Don’t panic - If you have a cold or flu, and the media is full of details about a potentially lethal pandemic, it’s hard to not imagine the worst. Once the announcement of confirmed cases of swine flu at St. Francis Preparatory School in New York hit the news, local hospitals were swamped with concerned people. Not only is this difficult for the healthcare system, it can also be potentially dangerous for everyone - all those people gathered in one place can help spread potential infection even more, including to hospitalized patients who are particularly vulnerable.
3) Call or go? - If you have symptoms and possible risks that sound like swine flu, call your doctor or local public health clinic before going in. You may be asked to go to a specific place to be tested, or you may be asked to stay home as long as you are able to breathe well. Anyone, however, who is rapidly getting worse, or having difficulty breathing, needs to be seen urgently by a doctor.
4) Contain the illness - First, take care of yourself - rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter medications to help with fevers, aches and pains, and stomach symptoms. Do not, however, give cough or cold medicines to children under two years of age - those medications are contraindicated.