What to do if you...catch swine flu
Sunday 03 January 2010
Dan Carrier, 36, is a journalist and single father from north London. He suffered from a virulent attack of swine flu last summer, which took him more than a month to recover from
"I started to feel ill on my way back from a music festival but thought I was just run down and suffering from having spent a weekend in a field with 10,000 people. Hours after I got home, the temperature hit me and so started what was one of the nastiest experiences in my life.
"I've had the flu before but this was nothing like the normal two weeks when you feel exhausted, can't eat, are shivery and stay in bed; this was much worse – I was beside myself. I lost all concept of time and was delirious with the high temperature, which lasted more than a week. Even after that, every time I thought I felt a bit better and would stagger to the sofa, I'd just collapse again. It's really important to take paracetamol regularly to keep the temperature down as much as you can, and make sure you've got someone who'll make you drink loads of fluids.
"After the first few days, when I kept feeling worse and worse, I called my GP, who told me not to come in but to call the flu helpline instead. The person on the other end of the line did what felt like a box-ticking exercise and asked me things like: 'Do you feel ill, quite ill or very ill?' She then diagnosed me with swine flu and prescribed Tamiflu, but my sister, who's a GP, said it was too late to bother with it so I didn't take it. Ring the flu line early otherwise don't bother wasting NHS money getting Tamiflu; just stay in bed, rest and take paracetamol.
"My son Luc, who'll be six soon, spends half his week living with me but it just so happened that the week I first got sick his mum was away for the whole week, as were my mum and dad. I didn't even have the energy to organise alternative child care, but luckily I've got friends and other family to help out. Luc was really good and played in the lounge a lot, but there was obviously a time when I needed to be in quarantine and was just sleeping all the time. People would come round, pick him up for the day, take him out, then bring him back and put him to bed for me. They'd leave me big bowls of soup outside my bedroom door, it was really sweet.
"Once you've got the symptoms, quarantine yourself and don't be selfish and try to go out, because you'll just infect everyone else. You'll feel so bad that it's impossible to cook for yourself, so make sure someone can help look after you if you live on your own. You've just got to accept that you're going to be knocked out for a month and make arrangements for other people to help you with everything. I was actually on annual leave for some of the time but I've still never had so many days off work. Even after a month I didn't feel myself. I'd walk to the shops and have to go back to bed for a sleep straight afterwards. I tried to go on a camping holiday with my sister more than a month later because I thought the fresh air would help me recuperate, but ended up coming home because I was so exhausted.
"Lots of children in Luc's school were off with swine flu before the summer holidays, so I think if he was going to get it, he would already have had it. But, if there's a second wave and the school or the GP advises me to vaccinate him, I will. I'm definitely not worried about the vaccine safety. But otherwise I'm not going to do anything different with him. If he gets it, we'll cope with it. I do worry about the strain on the NHS so I don't think everyone should get the vaccine. But people with health problems that make them more risky, I think they should take the advice and get vaccinated. Otherwise prepare for a really horrible month."
For the NHS helpline, call 0800 1 513 100 or visit nhs.uk
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