Pregnancy is a time when mothers have to be particularly careful about swine flu (H1N1).
Is it dangerous?
It is not clear as to whether swine flu is more dangerous in pregnant women than any other flu. Or whether it will affect the baby more. Researchers are still trying to find answers.
Are pregnant women more susceptible to it?
Yes. It is known that pregnant women are more likely to catch this flu (or any other infection) as the mother's immunity is reduced during the whole of pregnancy. The latter is a natural phenomenon and therefore pregnant women need to take more precautions.
What precautions should pregnant women take to avoid it?
- Wash your hands regularly as these germs can be anywhere. You can also use cleaning gels that are alcohol based.
- Do not touch your face and mouth, as germs on your hand may find their way into your body
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick, especially with flu-like symptoms
- Try to avoid areas that are too crowded where people are breathing very close to you - crowded beaches, packed temples etc., Be sensible about this. Don't avoid going out, just try to avoid packed crowds.
- If someone has returned from abroad, go see them or have them visit you after they have spent a week or so in India. This will give time for them to manifest any flu symptoms.
- If you have school going children, make sure they also wash their hands, feet and body thoroughly after coming from school or from playing or any other activity where they are mingling with others
- Avoid travelling to countries which have been identified with swine flu. As this list seems to be updated every day, we suggest you search the web just before arranging travel, to get an updated list of countries affected by swine flu.
- Follow other good general health practices
- Drink enough fluids
- Eat nutritious healthy foods
- Reduce your stress
- Get some exercise
Symptoms of swine flu
Symptoms of swine flu are like any other flu
- Sore throat
- Aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Sometimes diarrhoea and vomiting
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
What should I do if I see these symptoms?
Don't panic. Do not try to avoid going to the doctor because people scare you about quarantine etc., It is better to have a professional treat you than stay at home and hope for the best. The doctor's treatment will involve medicines. The risks to the baby from the medicines is far lower than the risk of the flu worsening and creating complications that can severely affect the baby.
Some pregnant women who get flu may develop other complications like pneumonia, dehydration, shortness of breath etc., These can affect your unborn baby severely. So do not wait till your situation becomes worse. Most of the time, flu can be treated and controlled if you go to the doctor early.
Call your doctor and inform them that you have flu like symptoms before you drop into their clinic. They may want to take precautions to ensure that you do not spread it to other people there.
Many of us have an inherent fear of government hospitals (GH). We also hear stories that the government will immediately put us in isolation wards if we have flu-like symptoms. This is not accurate. Many people just have ordinary flu. Everyone with flu cannot be put in isolation in the GH. It is not practical.
The Government of India (GOI) has issued clinical management protocols that doctors should use to determine if the patient should go to the GH or not. Not everyone with flu-like symptoms will be forced to go to the GH.
The patient will be examined by the doctor, to see if they match any of the symptoms that could indicate swine flu and if they are identified as such, only then will the patient be put in isolation.
Updated: On Aug 6 2009, the Government of India HAS issued new isolation guidelines. They say
"Any person with flu like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, cold, running nose etc. should go to a designated Government facility for giving his/her sample for testing for the H1N1 virus. After clinical assessment, the designated medical officer would decide on the need for testing. Except for cases that are severe, the patient would be allowed to go home (This was not allowed under the existing guidelines).
The sample of the suspect case would be collected and sent to the notified laboratory for testing. If tested as positive for H1N1 and in case the symptoms are mild, the patient would be informed and given the option of admission into the hospital or isolation and treatment at his own home.
In case the patient opts for home isolation and treatment, he/she would be provided with detailed guidelines / safety measures to be strictly adhered to by the entire household of the patient. He/ she would have to provide full contact details of his entire household. The house hold and social contacts would be provided with the preventive treatment.
Notwithstanding the above guidelines, the decision of the doctor of the notified hospital about admitting the patient would be final."
Even if swine flu is suspected based on symptoms, unless a test is done at a lab, it cannot be confirmed. Since the identification of this virus is done by government labs like the NICD etc., the government hospitals can confirm faster if you have the H1N1 virus or not.
The Government of India is also assuring everyone that they have well trained doctors at their facilities and adequate stocks of the right medicines. The government has also passed strictures forbidding the sales of medicines used in swine flu in the open market and have taken control of stock. They have also gotten ready the mechanisms to test to check if the virus causing flu like symptoms is swine flu (H1N1) or not.
How will it be treated?
The doctor will decide your course of treatment. Oseltamvir and Tamiflu seem to be the popularly used medicines for this. The doctor will prescribe rest and also ask you to ensure that you are getting enough liquids especially if you have diarrhoea or vomiting. Doctors may also prescribe other medicines like painkillers, antibiotics for protection against other infections etc.,
More detailed information about swine flu is available at