H1N1 and Me

Swine Flu
Swine Flu

My 17-year-old son had the H1N1 virus. My 19-year-old daughter probably had it too, but we don't know for sure.

I thought I might blog about the experience to better inform people about how the virus works, at least in our case.

Here's a chronology of our experience. I'm sure it's different for different people.

Last weekend, my husband and I were away, while both children were home and in contact with my 83-year-old mother. Our daughter left to go back to college in Orange County Sunday night.


Our daughter texts me that she feels lousy, but she doesn't think she has a fever. She's stocking up on fluids and going to bed. "Half the school is sick," she writes. Did she want me to come down? "No, it's not that bad."

Our son starts complaining that he's getting a sore throat. "It's that time of year," he tells me.


Our son leaves school early because he feels lousy. Looks like he's getting a cold.


Our son has a fever of a little over 100, so we stock him up with fluids and set him up on the couch and tell him we'll check in regularly.

By 7am, the fever is 102. My husband and I are already at work, so I tell my son to take a couple of Extra Strength Tylenol and I'll come home early. His symptoms, in addition to the high fever, are sore throat, congestion, headache, light-headedness, and generally feeling awful.

I call the pediatrician to make an appointment. I don't usually go to the doctor for the cold or flu, because all that happens is that you wait around forever (someday I'll write a blog called "The Soviet Era Practice of Inefficient Doctor Appointment Scheduling"), only to be told to take aspirin, drink fluids, and rest.

However, I think my son might have strep throat or H1N1, and since H1N1 had been hitting young people hard, I decide not to take any chances.

At the appointment, the doctor tells us she's already seen five H1N1 cases that day, and that this flu often looks more like a cold than the flu (no vomiting). She checks my son's throat--no sign of strep. She then sticks a swab up both of his nostrils ("Mom, that was the worst thing ever!") and does a quick test for flu.

I didn't know such a test existed. She says it will take ten to fifteen minutes to get results. Two minutes later she walks in and says, "Well, that was fast. You have H1N1." She shows us the results which indicate positive for influenza (I think she says it's Influenza A), and since H1N1 is the only flu out there at the moment, she says that's what my son has.

I ask the doctor why this flu is hitting kids harder than adults. She says it could be that many adults were exposed to a version of the virus in the '70s and may have developed some immunity. In my case, I got the flu last summer. The doctor says that was probably H1N1 because there was no other flu going around then. I did not seek treatment at the time because it wasn't that big a deal. However, I wasn't going to mess around when it came to my kid.

We get a prescription for Tamiflu, which the doctor says could significantly cut down my son's sick time. I ask her about side effects, and she says the only side effects she's heard of occurred in Japan, where some children hallucinated. She's heard of no problems in the U.S., and she recommends he take the drug.

She says my son can safely return to school 24 hours after he stops having a fever. Meantime, the pharmacist suggests my son take Tamiflu with a little food to avoid any nausea.

I call my daughter to see how she's feeling. If she has a fever, I will go down and take her to the doctor. No fever. She seems to be on the mend.

I call my 83-year-old mother, an asthmatic, who was with both kids the weekend before. Mom had a flu shot during the week and her arm hurts. She feels lousy, the way she often does after a flu shot, but I warn her to watch for H1N1 symptoms.

I email everyone at work to warn them that I may have infected the whole place, so they need to watch themselves for symptoms.


Our son still has a 100 degree fever. He chooses to skip the Tylenol and let his body fight the illness (with the help of Tamiflu). He gets out of bed to play videogames, and starts giving me attitude--all signs of a recovery! He informs me that he plans to go to work on Sunday at the bagel store--where he handles food. For customers. Uh, no. No. No. No. To convince him to call in sick, and to stop him from bothering me about it, I agree to give him his full pre-tax salary as a gift (a gift, IRS!). I'm out $42.50, but, bagel customers, it seems a small price to pay.

Then our daughter calls to say she suddenly feels worse. "It seems like a cold." Uh-oh. I ask her to take her temperature again. I prepare to rush down there and take her to Urgent Care. But her temp is only 99, so we reduce our Threat Level to Orange and decide to keep up with the liquids and rest and monitor her temp. By evening it is back to 98.6. I may have overreacted, but everybody's a little freaked out about this flu.

I cancel an appointment and also bow out of a dinner with friends to avoid exposing them, then I hypocritically mingle with strangers as I go grocery shopping and stop for some fast food. Nice, Jane.


Our son has no fever! Technically he can go to school Monday, though we'll wait until morning to make that call. We are halfway through the Tamiflu. He is still sounding congested, but he is up and about and arguing with me. For a nanosecond, I wish he was still sick. He's much nicer to me then.

Our daughter is also sounding congested but remains fever free. I jokingly tell her that I am lowering my prayer request at church to, "Please help our daughter pass Physics". Yes, my husband and I go to church, but we do not shake hands while sharing the peace. Fortunately, we are not showing any symptoms.

Finally, my mom reports that she's fine.

I tweeted www.twitter.com/janewellsmuch of this experience in real time, even while in the doctor's office, which seemed a little pathetic. But I hope that by being honest, I can be informative and helpful.

Final thoughts: in our case, H1N1 is a flu that appears like a cold. Thankfully, in this instance, it was hardly the end of the world. I think the Tamiflu helped. It certainly didn't hurt, other than occasionally make my son nauseous.

As we left the doctor's office on Friday, the physician tossed the test results into the trash can, saying, "You don't want to keep this, do you?" She said one mom insisted on taking the positive H1N1 test results home. What, for the kid's scrapbook? I think I'd rather forget this weekend ...

Update: Sunday night my son begins complaining of a sore neck and chills. The fever is back--100.6 degrees. Time for Tylenol. He will not go to school Monday, and I'm staying home, too.

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