Wednesday, 8 July 2009

I've got the swine flu.... probably

GPs aren't testing for the swine flu in the UK anymore, and the WHO is about to advise that countries with widespread cases stop testing, since 95% or more cases of flu are now caused by H1N1, so there is no way to prove that I have the swine flu.

But I am sure that is what it is, as is my husband (who is a doctor). My sister's friend, who is Argentinian and was living in Spain flew to visit her and then got ill - next to follow was my sister, who was visited by parents just before she presented with symptoms. My parents then came to stop at our household for a few days, and then my sister also paid us a visit. Shortly after my sister getting ill, my mother started to feel like she was developing something (although she seemed to fight it off), and then myself, my husband, my son and my father (who does not live with us) all fell ill at the same time.

My none-scientific calculations, if our source of illness is correct, tell me that the incubation period is quite long, something closer to the early suggestions of around about 8 days between coming into contact with the virus and developing symptoms. Now my son's (4 year old) friends are also starting to develop suspect symptoms, and if they caught it from him then the 8 days would also fit. However, I read that recent reports suggest a shorter incubation period that could even be as short as 1 - 4 days. Personally I think that this may be due to the virus being so widespread at the moment - when you go down with the flu, maybe your friends are too, but doesn't mean that's who you caught it from - it could well be that you and your friends were in contact with someone else at the same time, who may have had the illness that you don't even know about. After all, who wants to advertise the fact that they think they may have the swine flu? I certainly didn't want to be the one that got my children's schools shut down! I am relieved now that our government are no long taking this cause of action, since the disruption to everyone when this happens is huge, and I figure everyone is going to come into contact with this now sooner or later.

So how we feel? Why are we convinced we got the swine flu? And what treatment did we receive?

I first started to feel a little 'odd' like I was going down with a strange cold that I thought was suspicious. Felt a little unlike other colds although I wasn't sure why. I was quite tired and I remember had absolutely no energy in my aerobics class and being very out of breath. I had a slight saw throat and developed a very 'sticky' cough that came on very quickly, which I found unusual since I am not prone to catch many coughs, and certainly not so quickly. I found it 'stickier' than anything I had experienced before, but I wasn't very unwell. A slight temperature. I had started taking Sambucol (black elderberry extract) which I had researched on Pubmed and seemed to be effective in boosting immunity against flu viruses. I then seemed to be getting better and shifting whatever it was, before it came back and hit me a second time. This time the cough was much worse. It is a deep chesty cough that seems to hit you in waves - sometimes you think it is getting better, and then all of a sudden you feel really bad - and then you pick up again. The cough goes on and on and keeps you up at night. Mine didn't have any yellow secretions, although my husband's did a little (so he took some antibiotics to fight any secondary bacterial infection). Sounds like we have TB. I've been coughing badly now for 9 days, but today I would say I am definitely feeling better and can say now I think is is subsiding. My sister tells me she was really ill but is now 100% better with no symptoms at all - which is reassuring.

I did not visit the doctor. I took lots of Sambucol, which I believe took the edge off things (I would always feel better a few hours after taking it) as well as chesty cough medicine containing Guaifenesin, which I could not have done without, as well as bronchial balsam mixture, and lots of Vicks almost permanently on my chest (which I think may have helped relax me slightly). I haven't taken any paracetamol, instead preferring to let myself run with a very slight temperature, since my own theory is that helps me fight the infection better. We have also been drinking lots of red berry juice - which tastes very good to me at the moment! Have been tired and worn out, which is no surprise due to the disrupted sleep and heavy duty coughing. Now I am quite pleased I have had this and am on the mend since I figure I can relax a little come the Winter without any major concerns for the flu. One thing I would say is that this flu has seemed different to any other. The main thing has been the cough. I have felt maybe a little achy at times, and have had a slight 'sniffle', but nothing like the aches and head colds of previous flu - but that may have been due to the Sambucol which I believe is effective in fighting such symptoms.

My 4 year old son was also hit by two waves - first off he got a high temperature round about 39 degrees (under the arm) that responded after a few hours to Calpol and Calprofen - followed by a sudden cold that seemed to be clearing after a few days - but then 4 to 5 days later had a sudden temperature that rose above 40 degrees - not sure exactly how hot, since after that we were so busy trying to get the temperature down we didn't have time to take it again (well maybe we were too scared to) until it had dropped a little. After that he developed the same cough as us. He has on the whole however slept better than us, after his initial temperature, his cough hasn't been quite as bad and I think been getting well quicker (at least I hope so, although it is obviously much more worrying seeing him ill than experiencing this ourselves).

We initially called NHS Direct regarding our son, who gave us general advice on treating the flu. Later in the night we called our out of hours doctor who told us to take him to our nearest treatment centre - which was quite a drive actually to the hospital, so we didn't bother since his temperature was starting to come down. The next time his temperature flared up we took him to the GP the next day who thought it was probably a virus but saw that his throat was sore, so prescribed antibiotics as a precaution. Swine flu was not mentioned since there were not many known cases in the area at that time. However, just a few weeks later when my friend took her children to the doctor with the same symptoms they have said it is quite possibly swine flu, although they cannot confirm this. She was not offered Tamiflu, which I found was surprising since both her children are asthmatic, but told to go back if it got much worse.

Worth noting is that my mother felt she was going down with something, so on my recommendation took Sambucol and then felt fine, as did my 14 year old daughter (who we have been coughing all over the past few weeks, and after just a dry throat and slight temperature one night, and several doses of Samucol, has also stayed well).

So that's our 'probably swine flu' story, for those that are wondering whether they have it too and what the symptoms might be. Good luck with your dose! Read what happened next in my swine flu story here.

Don't forget to check out MedWorm for all the very latest swine flu news.


  1. I think I might have had swine flu this week. I didn't have the terrible cough that you mention, but had the worst sore throat I've ever had in my life - so bad I had difficulty swallowing for about 2 days. I also had aching limbs, tiredness etc. but as you say I've had worse flu for these symptoms before. Did you have a terrible sore throat which was really swollen?

  2. Well my first symptom was a slight sore throat, but I was taking Sambucol which I think reduced my early symptoms. However, my husband had a very sore throat, couldn't swallow and had aches - initially he thought he had tonsillitis, and the doctor also said my son's throat was red - he was prescribed antibiotics as it was also suspected tonsillitis. The cough started a little later after we thought we were getting better, so if you do have the swine flu this may just be the beginning for you (well I had the sticky cough from quite early on but my husband didn't, but we were both hit with a 'very' bad cough about a week later). If I were you I would get lots of sleep - I know it is very hard as a mother – I didn’t, but today I did! I had no energy to do anything else – I let my son play cars on my bed whilst I slept) and eat really well (even if you don't feel like it) and take some vitamins - maybe that would will help prevent it coming back worse (if that is what it is). Good luck!

  3. I have been diagnosed with swine flu by the pandemic flu people, although they never actually saw me! I've been given tamilflu to take, which just makes my tummy feel a bit odd, but i dont actually vomit.
    Mine started with really aching calf musles and swollen glands in my neck, followed by an irritating scratchy throat, high temperature and finally now what feels to me like a full blown chest infection, i admit i do suffer with chest infections, but this seems extremely more severe than previous ones. Its getting to the point that i stuggle to finish a sentence without having to take a big gulp of air. I also have the most incredible coughing fits where i bring up thick yellow phlegm and occasional spots of blood, but assume this is where i am straining the cough? I have been searching the internet and found that this is quite a common symptom of swine flu, but since you cannot visit your gp, for risk of contaminating people, nor can you pop into the local A&E for the same reason, no one os able to tell you if this is what they are calling seconadry symptoms??
    I also found your blog a really awesome read, really sraight foreward and uncomplicated, thankyou

  4. Hi Amy, First thanks for the lovely comment on my blog. Inspires me to write a bit more knowing that someone is reading!

    Sorry to hear you are not at all well. I have to say that I am hugely relieved to be over my episode now which really was a horrible experience.

    Then I want to stress that I am a not a doctor, before giving you my advice that you absolutely must call your GP (not NHS direct), even if you don't visit the surgery, since I know from my (doctor) husband that yellow phlegm is a sign of bacterial infection on top of your viral infection that will almost certainly need treating with antibiotics (many people can go on to develop bacterial pneumonia as a result of the initial viral infection). If they don't want you to go into their surgery, then they will have to send someone out to give you a home visit - both my parents had home visits from their GP's surgery when they were ill with the swine flu.

    Don't suffer in silence when you think you need some help. It is often hard to know when to make that call to the GP, but leaving a bacterial chest infection too late can result in serious consequences (not wanting to sound over dramatic, but potential that you may be developing pneumonia has to be taken very seriously and is not something you want to wait for until it is too late to be treated by a simple course of antibiotics).

    I wish you strength, and lots of patience (if it is like what I had it will take a good few weeks before you get better), and a quick return to better health.