Allergies Symptoms Swine Flu

The recent swine flu outbreak has been making headlines as the disease has spread across the world and caused dozens of fatalities. This highly contagious strain of influenza, which was first detected in Mexico, has quickly spread to many continents, affecting hundreds of people in less than one week with symptoms of headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Swine flu has proven fatal in a small percentage of cases, particularly in Mexico, where it has taken the lives of more than 150 otherwise-healthy young adults.

Swine flu news is particularly alarming to many because several symptoms of the swine flu mimic those of seasonal allergies. This means that many people with allergies may be unnecessarily anxious about their symptoms, while some cases of the swine flu may be misdiagnosed as simple allergies. Therefore, experts recommend that people with allergies become educated about the difference between allergy and swine flu symptoms. Because swine flu can be fatal, early and accurate detection is crucial.

The Swine Flu Fiasco

When was swine flu discovered? While many people are now hearing about swine flu for the first time, swine flu has appeared before in the United States’ history. In 1976 Swine flu infected nearly 300 military recruits in New Jersey, but disappeared almost as mysteriously as it appeared, causing only one fatality. A few other cases of swine flu were noted in history, and millions were vaccinated against the disease after the 1976 outbreak. Because the 2009 swine flu fiasco is a result of a different strain of the disease, swine flu vaccines administered in the 1970s will not protect individuals from the current outbreak.

Swine Flu Symptoms vs. Allergy Symptoms

The symptoms of swine flu in humans are very similar to symptoms of seasonal allergies. Experts agree that it’s important to know how to differentiate between the two conditions to avoid unnecessary stress and worry. A study of swine flu symptoms has revealed that they can be differentiated from allergies or the common cold, as several key symptoms are present in those with swine flu, but not allergies.

Swine flu symptoms, which are similar to allergy symptoms, include:

  • coughing
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • runny nose
  • sore throat.

Several symptoms that are present in swine flu patients, but not in those just with seasonal allergies include:

  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting.

Itchy, watery eyes and nasal congestion are also indicators of allergies, but not of swine flu. (Of course, it’s possible to have both seasonal allergies and swine flu, so if you are experiencing these symptoms as well as the symptoms of swine flu, and have been exposed to the virus, you should seek medical treatment immediately).

What to Do If You Think You Have Swine Flu

While allergies are not contagious, swine flu has rapidly been passed between humans. If you are simply experiencing flu-like symptoms, it’s important to take the necessary precautions against spreading the disease:

  • Sneeze into a tissue, not a handkerchief; discard the tissue and wash your hands after sneezing.
  • Stay at home and avoid interaction with healthy individuals until you feel well again.
  • Wash sheets and pillowcases in hot water to get kill of germs.
  • Wash your hands whenever you touch anything or anyone.

If you are experiencing swine flu symptoms, however, and have recently been in a high-risk area (such as Mexico) or you have been in contact with someone who was confirmed to have the disease, see your doctor as soon as you can. It’s currently not possible to diagnose swine flu simply by examining symptoms, and your doctor likely won’t have the ability to give you an immediate diagnosis. For an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will send test results to a state health department lab, which will be able to determine whether or not your symptoms are indicative of swine flu.

Frequently Asked Questions About Swine Flu

Q: Is it possible to contract swine flu by eating pork products?

A: No. It’s still safe to eat bacon and other pork products; swine flu is transmitted from human-to-human or pig-to-human contact. Cooking pork products over 160 degrees makes them safe for consumption.

Q: Does swine flu have any other names that I should be aware of?

A: Some officials object to the term “swine flu,” arguing that it implies pork is unsafe for consumption. The disease has been referred to as “Mexican flu” and “Mexican virus,” though authorities in Mexico objected to this terminology as well. Other names for the disease include “H1N1 flu,” “new flu,” “North American influenza” and “novel flu virus.”

Q: How can I be sure my symptoms are just allergies?

A: The only way to accurately diagnose swine flu is to undergo a test at your doctor’s office. However, if you are unsure about your symptoms and answer “yes” to the majority of the questions below, you may want to see a doctor.

  • Are you feeling nauseous, suffering from diarrhea, vomiting or experiencing chills and fever in addition to allergy-like symptoms?
  • Do allergy-like symptoms persist even when you’re not in contact with the suspected allergen?
  • Have you recently been in contact with someone with a confirmed case of swine flu?
  • Have you recently visited a swine flu high-risk area, such as Mexico, Spain or New Zealand?
  • Is this the first spring that you’ve suffered from allergy-like symptoms?

Q: I’ve heard swine flu has “pandemic” potential. What does that mean?

A: A pandemic is a global outbreak of a disease. Specifically, a flu pandemic occurs when people have little or no immunity to a new strain of influenza for which there is no vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) declares whether or not a disease outbreak has reached pandemic status.

While the swine flu outbreak is alarming, experts stress that it’s important to understand its symptoms and your own personal risks. Particularly if you suffer from allergies, it’s crucial to know how to differentiate your allergy symptoms and the symptoms of this dangerous disease.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff. (n.d.). Key facts about swine influenza (swine flu). Retrieved April 29, 2009, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/key_facts.htm.

Katital, R., M.D. (n.d.). What are typical seasonal allergy symptoms? Retrieved April 29, 2009, from the ABC News Web site: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AllergiesSeasonal/story?id=4520752.

MSNBC staff (n.d.). U.S. swine flu cases surge to nearly 100. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from the MSNBC Web site: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30471035/.

MSNBC staff, et al. (n.d.). WHO to stop using the term ‘swine flu.’ Retrieved April 30, 2009, from the MSNBC Web site: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30398682/.

National Public Radio staff (n.d.). WHO boots flu alert level to phase V. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from the NPR Web site: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103593687.

New York Times staff. (n.d.). Tracking swine flu cases worldwide. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from the New York Times Web site: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/04/27/us/20090427-flu-update-graphic.html.