Influenza and H1N1 Bad for Your Heart
  • is confused or isn't responsive.

If you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice. Use the emergency room as a last resort; if you go there and don't have the flu, it's a great place to catch it from those who do.

PREVENTION IS BEST

The two V's - vaccine and vigilance - are your best tools for avoiding the flu. Because seasonal flu contains a different mix of viruses each year, you need to get vaccinated every year. But this vaccine doesn't include anything to fight H1N1, which is why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked feverishly to create a new vaccine for it.

For seasonal flu, older people and those with heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or other chronic conditions are at the top of the list for getting the vaccine. That's not the case for H1N1. People born before 1957 are less likely to be stricken with the virus than younger people. That doesn't mean you shouldn't get the swine flu shot if you're older than that - you should - just that you won't be first in line.

Vigilance is even more important. You don't need to hibernate at home until summer. Following these tips can help keep you flu-free:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissuet in the trash. If you don't have a tissue or handkerchief, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, not into your hands.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are sick. Young children can be vectors. Handle with care.
  • If you feel like you have the flu, let your doctor know right away, especially if you have heart disease. You may benefit from Tamiflu or another antiviral drug, which can reduce the severity of the illness. Don't stop taking your regular medications without first consulting your health care provider. Let your doctor know about any difficulty breathing, if you suddenly get worse, or if you aren't getting better after three or four days.

Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except for getting medical care or other necessities. While you're sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.