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Swine Flu and Chronic Conditions

Experts explain the risks of swine flu for people with chronic health conditions.

What preventative measures should caregivers of people with chronic conditions take to protect them from swine flu?

"This is a very good question, and it's very important that people take proper precautions," says Glatt, who recommends that caregivers avoid taking care of people if they are sick themselves. If that's impossible -- for instance, a person taking care of a sick spouse -- Glatt suggests these steps:

  • Wear an appropriate face mask.
  • Wash your hands very, very frequently (after each contact/care episode) and avoid touching your face.
  • Be appropriately careful with secretions and body fluids.

Other preventative measures recommended for caregivers include:

  • Separate the sick person from common areas if possible.
  • Consult with a physician regarding the benefits and risks of taking antiviral medication for prevention.

 

What are the warning signs that I may need emergency medical care for swine flu?

If you do come down with the flu, you may be sick for a week or longer, say the experts at the CDC. During that time they suggest staying home from work or school for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except if you need medical care or other necessities. The fever should be gone on its own, without the use of a fever-reducing drug.

If children experience any of these signs while having the flu, the CDC advises getting them to urgent medical care:

  • 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

Adults need emergency care if they experience any of these signs:

  • Problems breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

WebMD senior writer Daniel DeNoon contributed to this report.

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Reviewed on August 20, 2009

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