As the 2017-2018 flu season starts to take hold, more people become at risk from picking up the virus, and with so much written about the number of hospitalizations and deaths, it’s easy to get in a panic about it.
Yes, it’s true that every year hundreds of thousands of people end up in the hospital because of flu, and thousands also die after picking up the virus, so it’s not something to mess about with.
However, getting the flu doesn’t automatically put you on the danger list, and knowing when to get medical care can put your mind at rest as well as alerting you on what to look out for.
How Flu Differs From a Cold
Heavy colds are often confused with flu, and this is understandable because the two share many symptoms. With a cold, you’ll feel miserable, stuffy in the nose and head, you may feel physically cold, have a headache and sore throat, cough, and sneeze and feel generally unwell.
With flu, you’ll get all those symptoms too, but you can add to them:
- Rapid onset (whereas a cold tends to build more slowly and you may be aware it’s coming for several days)
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle and body aches
- Difficulty breathing
It should be noted that stomach flu isn’t the same thing as influenza, which we’re talking about here. Influenza doesn’t generally cause tummy upsets in adults.
Treating Flu At Home
The flu vaccine will maximize your protection, and while it’s still possible to get flu after having the shot, your body will have a head start and extra reserves to fight it off faster and bring less severe symptoms.
Most adults can treat themselves effectively at home without visiting their doctor, clinic, or emergency room. You can try:
- Over the counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease aches and pains or fevers.
- Decongestants to help with congestion.
- Drinking plenty of fluids to combat dehydration.
- Bed rest to give the body time to fight off the infection.
Other drugs such as peramivir, zanamivir or oseltamivir can help if you take them within 48 hours of symptoms starting. Antibiotics won’t help. They treat only bacterial infections whereas the flu is a virus. The only time antibiotics will help is if you get a secondary infection, maybe in ears, lungs or sinuses.
Flu can make you ill for a week or more, but most people will get better on their own by taking plenty of rest and treating the symptoms.
Some others, who fall into high-risk or vulnerable groups, need more help.
High Risk and Vulnerable Groups
Knowing whether you or someone close to you, falls into the vulnerable category alerts you to be extra vigilant when flu season is around. Symptoms to look for include:
- Children under 2 are especially vulnerable, but all children under 5 who develop flu symptoms should be closely monitored.
- Caregivers who’re exposed to the illness.
- Those with chronic conditions such as heart problems, lung disease or asthma.
- Those over 65.
- Anyone with a weak immune system, whether it’s caused by medication or by an established medical condition.
- Pregnant women.
- Those living in care facilities where viruses tend to circulate freely.
People in these situations or circumstances are more vulnerable to the flu virus because their bodies are ill-equipped to fight off the virus, giving it more chance to take hold and cause additional damage. Knowing someone you care for (or you yourself) is one of these at-risk people is the first step, the next is knowing what to look for and when to call for medical assistance.
Any of the following symptoms can indicate a serious complication that needs an urgent medical intervention:
- Shortness of breath, rapid breathing or trouble breathing.
- Chest pain, or a sensation of pressure.
- Lips or nails taking on a blue tinge.
- Fever convulsions (particularly in children)
- Green mucus, or coughing up blood
- A barking sound in a cough (croup)
- Excessive wheezing
- Very high fever (over 100.4F for kids babies under 3 months, or above 104F for children of any age)
- Severe vomiting
- Feeling dizzy or confused
- Getting a rash with fever
- When symptoms appear to get better then suddenly come back.
If any of these symptoms appear, never feel afraid to contact SignatureCare Emergency Center for advice. The worst thing you can do is hesitate to get assistance if you’re worried or fear you’re looking at a flu emergency.