Treating swine flu at home
FOR the majority of people swine flu is a mild illness and they will be able to recover at home with the help of over-the-counter remedies. By staying at home, drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol-based medicines if required most people will find their illness lasts around seven days. The following tips should help you and your family recover as comfortably as possible. Top 5 tips for self-care:
1. Stay hydrated Aim to drink eight to 12 glasses of water a day. 2. Stay comfortable Many people with swine flu experience a fever and temperature of more than 38C/100.4F If you have a high temperature you can feel more comfortable by opening a window slightly so fresh air can circulate. It is not advisable to try and ‘sweat out’ the illness by covering yourself with extra bedding or blankets. 3. Cope with coughs and sniffles A common symptom of flu is a cough and/or cold. Regular cough and flu medicines will help manage these symptoms. Some cough medicines are unsuitable for young children so if you’re treating a youngster ask your pharmacist for advice. Smoking or breathing in other people’s smoke can make symptoms worse so try and avoid it. 4. Manage aches and pains To control headaches or muscular aches take the pain-relief product you find normally works best for you. Read the instructions carefully. Be aware that aspirin, for instance, should never be given to children and adolescents up to 16 years of age unless a doctor advises it. Children should be given children’s liquid painkillers. Aspirin should not be taken after the 28th week of pregnancy, or when breastfeeding. Paracetamol is safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. 5. Rest Swine flu symptoms make most people feel tired and lethargic. Getting as much rest as possible will give your body the chance to recover. Caring for children If you suspect your child has a fever it is useful to take their temperature. A thermometer, available from a pharmacy, will give a quick reading. Pharmacy staff can advise on how to use a thermometer or you can follow these steps:
● Make sure the thermometer is clean. You can take a reading by holding it in a child’s mouth or armpit. Stay with the child while you do the reading.
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● Armpit readings are not the most accurate way of taking a temperature but it is often easiest with a small child. When you take a reading from the armpit the temperature will be about 0.5C lower than the body's core temperature, bear this in mind when you note the result.
● To take an armpit reading, put the thermometer directly against the skin under the arm and hold the arm gently against the chest. You may have to leave the thermometer there for up to five minutes to get an accurate reading.
● Check the reading. If, after taking someone's temperature, the thermometer shows a raised temperature, take another reading about 20 minutes later to confirm it.
Helping a child with a high temperature A fever can make a child feel uncomfortable and irritable. The following may help:
● You can give a child paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower their temperature. You can buy these medicines in liquid form for children. The dose for each age is given with the medicine packet. These medicines do not treat the cause of the fever but can ease discomfort.
● Make sure a child is wearing light clothes or remove them if the room is at normal 'room temperature’. Do not 'cold-sponge' a child who has a fever or immerse in a cold bath. This is because the blood vessels under the skin become narrower (constrict) if the water is too cold. This reduces heat loss and can trap heat in deeper parts of the body. The child may then get worse. It is also not advisable to wrap up a feverish child to try and ‘sweat out’ fever. Open a window slightly to ensure there is a gentle flow of fresh air and this will reduce a child’s overheating or shivering. ● Encourage your child to have plenty to drink if they have a fever. Look out for signs of dehydration. Fever can cause more sweating, and some children who become irritable with a fever do not drink as much as they might need. Dehydration can also develop more quickly in a child who is vomiting or has a lot of diarrhoea. Signs of dehydration include: a dry mouth, no tears, sunken eyes, drowsiness, and generally becoming more unwell. Seek medical help if you suspect that your child is becoming dehydrated. What are antivirals? Antivirals are not a cure for swine flu but they will relieve some of the symptoms, reduce the length of time patients are ill by around one day and reduce the potential for serious complications, such as pneumonia. If you suspect you have swine flu you can use the National Pandemic Flu Service. They will be able to assess you and tell you where to get antivirals if you need them. Call 0800 15 13 100 for an assessment, or go online at
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