The flu season is well open us already this year and it is likely to continue for quite some time. It is important to know the best way to care for yourself and your family. This article will give you some important information to help you prevent getting sick as well as offer guidance should you or your loved ones become infected.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This old adage certainly applies to the flu. There are several precautions you can take to reduce your risk of getting the flu. Here are just a few:
1. Get a flu shot.
2. Avoid contact with sick people.
3. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. If these are not available use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
4. Try to avoid touching your mouth and nose as this is a common way to spread the virus.
Here are the common symptoms associated with the flu: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.
Should you begin to feel the "flu-like" symptoms listed above then follow these guidelines:
1. STAY AT HOME - at least 24 hours until after your fever is gone.
2. Keep away from others as much as possible.
3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
4. Put your used tissue in the wastebasket.
5. Clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
You should seek medical care if the following occur:
1. Trouble breathing
2. Bluish or gray skin color
3. Not drinking enough fluids
4. Severe or persistent vomiting
5. Not waking up or not interacting
6. Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
7. Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
1. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
2. Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
3. Sudden dizziness
5. Severe or persistent vomiting
6. Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Treatment for the flu is mainly through drinking plenty of fluids and taking medications for fever such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen. In certain cases medication may be required to treat vomiting and diarrhea. While there are a few antiviral medications available for the flu, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in general recommends that they be reserved for patients who are at more risk for complications - hospitalized, under the age of 2, over the age of 65, under 19 on long term aspirin therapy, pregnant patients, patients with chronic conditions suppressing their immune system (See http://www.cdc.gov for specific recommendations). Do not be surprised if your physician does not prescribe one of these medications. The antiviral medications only have an effect if begun within 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. If you have TennCare then you must have a positive flu test in order to qualify for an antiviral medication.
Remember, if you get the flu, you are contagious for up to a week after your symptoms start. Be careful not to spread the virus by leaving home too early or going to public places. This year's strains are very contagious and early containment will minimize the spread. If you should have questions feel free to visit the CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov or call a local healthcare provider. Stones River Hospital Emergency Room is ready to service any flu related needs you might encounter. Take the proper precautions and you might escape this season without the flu.
Phil Parker, M.D.
Emergency Room Medical Director
Southeastern Emergency Care
Stones River Hospital