Aug 30

Swine Flu and Fibromyalgia Syndrome information

Swine flu image

The Swine flu pandemic poses a particular challenge to the Fibro community. Fibro sufferers may mistake flu symptoms for a Fibro flare, delaying diagnosis; they may feel more ill with the flu because of the overlap between swine flu and Fibro Symptoms; and some Fibro sufferers may be at higher risk of developing complications. The following information may be of use.

Swine Flu Information

Detailed information on swine flu is available on the NHS Choices website here.

Many of the symptoms are similar to a Fibro flare - fatigue, generalised or joint pain, upset tummy, headache, even feeling feverish. However some, such as a sudden cough developing, are not typical of a Fibro flare. A temperature of 38C or more is the critical sign of possible swine flu.


Basic hygiene measures may help protect you from developing swine flu:

  • • Ensure everyone washes their hands regularly with soap and water.
  • • Clean surfaces regularly to get rid of germs. This is especially important if someone if your house has swine flu. Anti-bacterial cleaning wipes make it easier to frequently wipe down surfaces.
  • • Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze,
  • • Place used tissues in a bin as soon as possible.
  • • If your partner has swine flu or is developing flu-like symptoms, avoiding hugging and kissing and, if possible, sleep separately.

Avoid unnecessary travel and avoid crowded places if possible. If you can work from home and change doctors appointments to telephone consultations, then do so.

Preparing for Swine Flu

If you do get swine flu, it will be helpful if you have made some basic preparations:

  • • Get a "flu buddy" who can get you prescriptions, medications and other supplies if you fall ill and cannot leave the house. Ideally this should be someone who does not live with you, but who lives close by, as housemates of sufferers are likely to become ill themselves.
  • • Make sure you have basic flu medications: paracetamol or co-codamol, decongestants, cough syrup, throat lozenges, etc. Ensure that you know which medications contain paracetamol as it is dangerous to overdose on paracetamol.
  • • Check that you are not about to run out of any medications you take for your Fibro.
  • • Stock up on basic supplies such as tissues and toilet paper.
  • • Stock up on easy to eat foods that require little or no preparation, such as soup.

If you have flu-like symptoms

If you have flu-like symptoms and are concerned that you may have swine flu, the NHS recommends that you:

  1. Read up on swine flu symptoms on the NHS website here.
  2. Stay at home and check your condition at the National Pandemic Flu Service. The National Pandemic Flu Service is a self-care service that will asses your symptoms and, if required, provide an authorisation number which can be used to collect antiviral medication from a local collection point.
  3. You should call your GP directly if: you have a serious underlying illness; you are pregnant; you have a sick child under one year old; your condition suddenly gets much worse; or if your condition is still getting worse after seven days (or five days for a child).

If you develop severe symptoms, such as chest pain or significant difficulty in breathing, then seek medical help straight away.


Treatment strategies used to lessen the symptoms of colds and normal flu may help you feel better if you have swine flu - take paracetamol-based cold remedies to reduce fever and other symptoms, drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest.

If the flu causes a major flare of your Fibro, then other medications may help - for instance if you are unable to sleep or if you get muscle spasms. Talk to your GP if you have a specific problem like this and they may prescribe a short course of an extra medication. Heat and TENS machines may also be helpful. Be aware that joint or muscle pain may be a symptom of the flu itself and may be best treated with paracetamol to reduce your fever.

Fibro should be considered in the high-risk category with regards to swine flu as it is a chronic neurological disorder that can negatively affect the immune system by making you run down. It is therefore likely that if your doctor considers that you have swine flu, they will consider prescribing an anti-viral, most probably Tamiflu.

Information on the anti-viral medications used is available on NHS MedGuides here.

The most common side effects of Tamiflu are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach ache and headache. These side effects mostly occur only after the first dose of the medicine and will usually stop as treatment continues. The frequency of these effects is reduced if the medicinal product is taken with food.

However, if you have a mild case, your doctor may decide to not prescribe you Tamiflu. Its use in a mild case will only serve to reduce how long you are sick by a day or so and the side effects may make you feel worse.

Make sure that any doctor you see about swine flu is aware that you have a chronic health condition and knows of any medications you may already be taking.

Edited 30 August 2009