Treating H1N1 Swine Flu

Although swine flu (influenza type A virus) doesn't typically affect humans, there was a global outbreak (pandemic) in 2009 to 2010—the first flu pandemic in more than 40 years. It was caused by a then-new flu virus known as H1N1, an influenza virus that's a combination of swine, avian (bird), and human genes that mixed together in pigs and spread to humans.1 H1N1 is now considered a normal type of seasonal flu and is included in the flu vaccine.


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Although there is no cure for the H1N1 swine flu—or any other type of influenza—there are things that you can do to reduce the severity of the symptoms and possibly shorten the duration of your illness, including OTC therapies, prescription drugs, and lifestyle changes. These may be especially important if you are at high risk for serious complications.

Treatments for H1N1 swine flu.
Laura Porter / Verywell

Over-the-Counter Therapies

Most people head straight for the cold and flu aisle of their local grocery store or pharmacy as soon as the first symptoms hit. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of choices to help you deal with the symptoms of the flu. The symptoms are not different than those of the seasonal flu and can be managed with the same OTC medicines.

Common choices for dealing with flu symptoms include multi-symptom remedies that combine pain reliever and fever reducers with decongestants, antihistamines, and sometimes cough suppressants or expectorants.


If you choose to use one of these multi-symptom medicines, it's important to pay attention to the ingredients in the medicines you are taking.

It is easy to overdose or get too much of one type of medicine because you didn't realize it was included in more than one of the pills you have taken.

Other people choose to take medicines that treat only one symptom. There are many options for pain and fever relief, cough, congestion, sore throat, and more. Focusing on the symptoms that are bothering you the most and taking over-the-counter medicines to relieve those symptoms is often the safest way to approach OTC therapies.

Prescription Options

There are some prescription medicines that can help with H1N1 swine flu. These are known as antiviral medications. The same antivirals that are used to fight seasonal flu can be used against H1N1 swine flu.


Tamiflu is the most commonly prescribed antiviral medicine for the flu.

If Tamiflu is used within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, it can shorten the duration of the illness and lessen the severity of the symptoms.

This was especially important during the 2009 pandemic.

Other antivirals include Relenza, Rapivab, and Xofluza. Tamiflu is taken orally as a pill or liquid suspension. Relenza is an inhaled powder, Rapivab is an IV (intravenous) medicine, and Xofluza is taken orally.

Complementary Medicine

There are many alternative medicine supplements that people use to fight or prevent the flu. Although there is little convincing evidence for their efficacy, some of the most popular are:

  • Echinacea
  • Elderberry
  • Vitamin C
  • Cinnamon and Honey
  • Oscillococcinum

Although some of these are promising, all of these supplements need to be studied further to determine if they are effective in treating or preventing the flu. It's also important to remember that they can have side effects even though they are "natural."

If you have any type of chronic medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or herbal remedies to be sure they will not negatively affect your health or interact with any of your regular medicines. If you think you have H1N1 swine flu—or any type of flu—talk to your healthcare provider about which treatment options are best for you.

Home/Lifestyle Remedies

Taking simple steps when you get sick with H1N1 swine flu goes a long way. Make sure you get enough rest so your body can fight the virus and heal. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids—water and electrolyte drinks are the best options—to stay hydrated.

Running a humidifier in the room you are in can help make breathing a little easier if you are congested or have a cough or a sore throat.

Although it is difficult, time is the best remedy for any type of flu. Because it is caused by a virus, it can't be cured and must run its course.

However, it's very important to seek medical attention if you develop concerning symptoms like difficulty breathing.

Stay home from work or school for as long as you have a fever. H1N1 swine flu is contagious as early as 24 hours before symptoms start and as long as your symptoms are present. It typically lasts for about a week but can be longer. 

H1N1 Swine Flu Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs. Updated April 22, 2019.

  2. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Flu and Colds: In Depth. Updated November 2016.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caring for Someone Sick. Updated February 28, 2019

Additional Reading
  • Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Past Pandemics. Pandemic Influenza (Flu). November 2, 2017.
  • Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs. January 23, 2018.