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H1N1 Influenza

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is H1N1 influenza?

H1N1 influenza (swine flu) is an infection caused by a virus. It is easily spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or has close contact with others. You may be able to spread H1N1 influenza to others for 1 week or longer after signs or symptoms appear.

What increases my risk for H1N1 influenza?

  • Living with or caring for someone who has H1N1 influenza
  • Living or working in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Living in close quarters with others
  • A condition such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or lung disease
  • Age older than 50 years
  • A weak immune system caused by HIV/AIDS, an organ transplant, pregnancy, or another condition
  • Travel to places where other people have H1N1 influenza

What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 influenza?

  • Fever and chills
  • Headaches, body aches, and muscle or joint pain
  • Cough, runny nose, and sore throat
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fatigue or loss of appetite
  • Trouble breathing

How is H1N1 influenza diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask if you have other health conditions. Tell him or her if you have traveled recently or been around sick people or animals. A sample of fluid from your nose or throat may show which germ is causing your illness.

How is H1N1 influenza treated?

Most people get better within a week. You may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Antivirals help fight a viral infection. This medicine works best when it is given within 48 hours after symptoms begin.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest as much as possible. Slowly start to do more each day.
  • Drink more liquids as directed. Liquids will help thin and loosen mucus so you can cough it up. Liquids will also help prevent dehydration. Liquids that help prevent dehydration include water, fruit juice, and broth. Do not drink liquids that contain caffeine. Caffeine can increase your risk for dehydration. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day.
  • Soothe a sore throat. Gargle with warm salt water. This helps your sore throat feel better. Make salt water by dissolving ¼ teaspoon salt in 1 cup warm water. You may also suck on hard candy or throat lozenges. You may use a sore throat spray.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer. Use a cool mist humidifier or a vaporizer to increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.
  • Use saline nasal drops as directed. These help relieve congestion.
  • Apply petroleum-based jelly around the outside of your nostrils. This can decrease irritation from blowing your nose.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can make your symptoms worse. They can also cause infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

How can I help prevent the spread of H1N1 influenza?

  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water every time you wash your hands. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the nails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use a hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Cover a sneeze or cough. Use a tissue that covers your mouth and nose. Throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Wash your hands well with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer. Do not stand close to anyone who is sneezing or coughing.
  • Clean shared items with a germ-killing cleaner. Clean table surfaces, doorknobs, and light switches. Do not share towels, silverware, and dishes with anyone. Wash bed sheets, towels, silverware, and dishes with soap and hot water.
  • Stay away from others if you are sick. Do not go to work, school, or other activities until a fever, cough, or other symptoms are gone.
  • Get an influenza vaccine to help prevent the flu. Get the vaccine as soon as recommended each year, usually in September or October. You do not need a separate vaccine for H1N1. Flu vaccines include H1N1 protection.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You have trouble breathing, and your lips look purple or blue.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have new pain or pressure in your chest.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You are dizzy, or you are urinating little or not at all.
  • You have a headache with a stiff neck, and you feel tired or confused.
  • Your symptoms worsen, or start to get better but then get worse.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have new muscle pain or weakness.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.