Cause for alarm

Vicky called me yesterday in a panic. 'I've got an itchy rash all over my arms and legs and I ache everywhere,' she said. 'Do you think it's swine flu?'

Given she had just returned from two weeks in Florida, it wasn't an entirely unreasonable suggestion. 'It doesn't sound like it,' I said, scrolling through the swine flu symptom checker on NHS Direct. 'But I think you should probably call the doctor just in case.'

A few hours later Vicky had her diagnosis. It was a mild virus, but it wasn't swine flu (and the rash was caused by the heat).

No need to panic, then – at least, not at the moment. But it's difficult not to feel anxious about swine flu – particularly if you're a mum.

'Unfortunately, in theory all children are at risk,' says GP Registrar Dr Clare Heggie. 'And the symptoms in adults and children are very similar to normal 'flu – sudden fever, cough, headache, tiredness, chills, aching muscles, limb/joint pain, diarrhoea, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and loss of appetite. Symptoms in younger children can be more difficult to determine but there will almost certainly be a fever. But if you're at all worried, call your GP or NHS Direct.'

It's also a good opportunity to remind your kids about the importance of covering their mouth with a tissue when they sneeze or cough, thowing dirty tissues away quickly, washing their hands with soap and water/handwash… and not wiping their nose on their sleeve.

Oh, and if your child comes home from school and announces it's being closed due to a swine flu outbreak, take it from me, it's best to double check with the school first. We won't be falling for that one again.

written by Liz Jarvis