Swine flu is a bigger risk to pregnant women because…
When you’re pregnant, changes happen to your immune system to prevent your body attacking the unborn baby, which it may see as a foreign body. This means mums are more vulnerable, not just to swine flu but all infections. The extreme risk of having a virus for mums-to-be is miscarriage plus other complications such as pneumonia and dehydration. That’s why it’s important to contact your GP as soon as you think anything’s wrong.
Young children are at greater risk because…
Young children’s immune systems are still developing. Children up to the age of 1 with swine flu are prescribed antivirals suitable for their bodies rather than the Tamiflu you’ll have heard about in the press.
You know it’s swine flu when…
Swine flu has a lot of the regular symptoms of flu, but especially a fever generally of 38ºC or greater, lack of energy and appetite, and coughing. “Some people report diarrhoea too,” says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. “If in any doubt about symptoms, phone your GP straight away.”
Staying indoors away from public places isn’t a failsafe way to avoid swine flu…
But be sensible – if you touch shared surfaces like PIN keypads at a cashpoint, use anti-bacterial hand spray afterwards. If you blow your nose, use a tissue and throw it away, to get rid of the germs. Make hand washing a habit.
If you’re pregnant and diagnosed with swine flu…
You’ll be prescribed a ‘pregnancy friendly’ version of Tamiflu, the drug used to treat swine flu, called Relenza. It’s inhaled so it doesn’t get into your bloodstream as much as Tamiflu would.
“Pregnant women can take antivirals safely on the advice of a doctor,” says Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson. “The Department of Health has a stockpile of Relenza. If you’re pregnant, it’s important to contact your GP if you think you have swine flu – and let them know that you’re pregnant. They will then advise you on what is best to do.”
If you’re worried you’re at risk…
Get healthy! Fruit and veg, lots of water and vitamins are important for pregnant mums and young children anyway. “Prevention is better than cure,” says Angela Chalmers. “Practice good hand hygiene by using hand sprays and washing your hands regularly. And take your pregnancy multivitamins religiously!”
Who’ll get the vaccine and when…
- There are contracts in place for 132 million doses of the jab – enough for everyone to have the required two shots.
- Nearly 55 million doses should be available by the end of the year
If the vaccine programme is granted approval by European regulators later this month, it will roll out in a particular order:
2. Pregnant women will be next.
3. Front-line health and social care workers will then be vaccinated at the same time
4. People living with patients with suppressed immune systems and those over 65 in at-risk groups will follow.
5. By the middle of winter it will be decided whether the vaccines will be offered to healthy people.
How do I get help?
As the winter progresses, see www.direct.gov.uk for the National Pandemic Flu Service page, or call 08001513513. A department of health spokesperson advises to contact your GP rather than the hotline if you:
- Have a serious underlying illness
- Are pregnant
- Have a sick child under 1 year old
- Your condition suddenly gets much worse or is still getting worse after seven days (five for a child).