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Swine Flu FAQ

Answers to your questions about swine flu.

If I think I have swine flu, what should I do? When should I see my doctor? continued...

Adults should seek urgent medical attention if they have:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then come back with worsening fever or cough

Keep in mind that your doctor will not be able to determine whether you have H1N1 swine flu, but he or she may take a sample from you and send it to a state health department lab for testing to see if it's swine flu. If your doctor suspects swine flu, he or she would be able to write you a prescription for Tamiflu or Relenza.

These antiviral medications aren't a question of life or death for the vast majority of people. Most U.S. swine flu patients have made a full recovery without antiviral drugs.

How does swine flu spread? Is it airborne?

The new H1N1 swine flu virus apparently spreads just like regular flu. You could pick up germs directly from airborne droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person. You could also pick up the virus by touching an object contaminated by the cough or touch of an infected person and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. That's why you should make washing your hands a habit, even when you're not ill. Infected people can start spreading flu germs up to a day before symptoms start, and for up to seven days after getting sick, according to the CDC.

The H1N1 swine flu virus, like the seasonal flu virus, can become airborne if you cough or sneeze without covering your nose and mouth, sending germs into the air. Ferret studies suggest that swine flu spreads less easily by small, airborne droplets than does seasonal flu. But it does spread by this route, and it may begin to spread even more readily as the new virus fully adapts to humans.

The H1N1 swine flu virus is a human virus spread by people and not by pigs. The only way to get the new swine flu is from another person.

How is swine flu treated?

PandemicH1N1 swine flu virus is sensitive to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. These antiviral drugs are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms. It's resistant to older flu drugs.

A third antiviral drug, peramivir, can be used only in hospitalized patients with severe flu. Peramivir is an intravenous drug approved for use under the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization.

Not everyone needs treatment with these anti-flu drugs. Most people who come down with H1N1 swine flu recover fully -- without antiviral treatment.

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