a woman taking her temperature

6 tips to cope during a flu epidemic

In the United States we are in the midst of a brutal influenza epidemic that is sickening thousands of people , hospitalizing hundreds, and may  kill a hundred children. As scary as that sounds, there is no need to panic. 6 tips to cope during an influenza epidemic

 

Even those who get the flu will likely fully recover. Children are still more likely to die from a motor vehicle accident than influenza. But parents should still be vigilant about protecting their families.

Here is a repeat of information I’ve shared before. Due to the enormous number of flu cases I’ve been treating in my clinic, I get home late and am exhausted. I will have some new content developed when this is over, which should be soon.

 

 

 

  1. If you think you have “the flu”, you probably don’t. (This season may be an exception.) 

Another doctor posted on Twitter , “If you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck, but you haven’t , then you have the flu.”

To many people “the flu” is any respiratory illness characterized by some combination of fever, cough, congestion, headache, fatigue,  and body aches. That term has become so nonspecific even we doctors use it that way. But it more correctly refers to influenza, which is  one of many viruses that cause illness. The illnesses caused by the other viruses are usually called “colds”, upper respiratory infections, aka URIs, bronchitis, pharyngitis, sinusitis and pneumonia.

I recommend this resource  from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to understand

influenza symptoms 

emergency warning symptoms that warrant an emergency room visit 

influenza complications 

 

 

 

The human respiratory system

The respiratory tract including the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, trachea, bronchi in blue and the lungs (pink). Infections can involve the breathing organs from the nose all the way down to the lungs. (photo complimentary from Pixabay)

  1. If your doctor thinks you have “the flu”, you probably do.

Prior to the availability of the “rapid flu” test, we doctors diagnosed influenza by the characteristic symptoms, confirmatory findings on exam, and knowing there was an outbreak in the community. The test is not absolutely necessary but is helpful for confirmation in the event the illness doesn’t progress as expected.

3. The best way to prevent influenza is by vaccination.

The World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) , the National Foundation for Infectious Disease and every other reputable medical organization recommends vaccination against influenza.

My family and I always get vaccinations which have successfully protected us without side effects or adverse reactions. There are risks, just like there are with any medical procedure, or lots of other things we do in life. In this case we have decided the benefit outweighs the risk.

 

  1. If you want to avoid getting influenza, avoid being around people who may be infected.

This means everyone, since one may be contagious 2 to 3 days before symptoms. It’s not a coincidence that influenza outbreaks coincide with the American holiday season (approximately November through January). So to protect us all,

  • Stay home if you are sick, and ask your family, co-workers and employees to do the same.
  • If you absolutely must go out among other people, put a mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Wash frequently touched surfaces frequently.
Hand hygiene saves lives.

a common sight now in public restrooms

  1. If you do get sick, don’t ask your doctor for an antibiotic.It will not help. 

    Antibiotics attack bacteria. Influenza and 99% of all respiratory illnesses are due to viruses.

The antiviral drug Tamiflu, generic oseltamivir,  will “shorten the duration and severity of symptoms” by 1-2 days, if started early (within 24-48 hours). There is some evidence that it will also lessen the risk of serious complications , especially in higher risk people (see below ).

I warn people that even with Tamiflu they will still feel miserable for a few days. But if it gets you back to school or work a day earlier, it may be worth the cost.

Oseltamivir can also be prescribed for prevention, if you know you have had close contact with someone with confirmed influenza, such as a household member. It’s only effective though for that episode, a 10 day course taken as soon as possible after exposure.

Otherwise, the treatment is“symptomatic” or “supportive” care:

  • Rest; eat and drink as normally as possible; extra fluids if running a fever 
  • Non-prescription cough/congestion /pain/fever meds

 

Don’t confuse Tamiflu (generic oseltamivir) a prescription anti-viral drug with Theraflu, an over the counter drug that treats symptoms.

Theraflu does not affect the course of the illness.

 

Here are  general guidelines  on what to do if you get a respiratory illness.

  1. You can die from influenza, but you probably won’t.

Influenza causes uncomfortable disabling symptoms but most people recover fairly quickly and fully. In some cases influenza can progress rapidly and overwhelm the respiratory and/or nervous systems,  leading to death.

People also die from complications of influenza, and infants, young children and the elderly have greatest risk.The most common fatal complication is bacterial pneumonia, infection in the lung. Influenza can also attack the nervous system causing brain inflammation (encephalitis and/or meningitis) and paralysis in the form of Guillain Barre syndrome .

an xray of healthy lungs with no signs of pneumonia.

Healthy lungs with no signs of pneumonia.

 

 

High risk persons- use caution when dealing with influenza

Persons with chronic illnesses like diabetes, lung disorders, chronic liver or kidney disease, depressed immune systems and cancer , as well as infants and persons of advanced age are at greater risk of complications and should always consult a physician if feeling ill. If you are not sure if you fall into that category, ask your doctor.

 

Please share this important information , you may save someone’s life.

Thanks and stay well.

                                                                    Dr. Aletha 26952564_10213093560871954_4239554644472378905_o

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “6 tips to cope during a flu epidemic

  1. Jean | DelightfulRepast.com

    Thank you for the tips, Dr Aletha. I had the flu in 2004, and I refused to let my husband take me to the doctor or emergency room. It was extremely bad for more than 2 weeks. Afterward, we realized he should not have listened to me! #BloggersPitStop

    Like

    Reply
    1. Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D. Post author

      Jean I’m sorry you had the flu but hope that means you have avoided it for 14 years. Once one has had the flu you never forget how miserable it is. In my career the development of the vaccine and the anti-viral medication have given us something to fight it with.

      Like

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Blogger's Pit Stop #111 - from www.thisautoimmunelife.com

  3. Pingback: Blogger's Pit Stop #111 - The Blogger's Lifestyle

    1. Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D. Post author

      I think this flu season has educated a lot of people Rhonda. After a few mild years, we have forgotten how serious influenza can be. And many think antibiotics cure everything, when in fact they don’t do anything for influenza. I am alarmed at the number of people who feel obligated to go to work even when they are sick. I am sympathetic to employers but it endangers their other employees and customers.

      Like

      Reply
  4. mrsluvit02

    Aletha, we will feature your post on The Blogger’s Pit Stop to get this information out there.

    Kathleen
    Blogger’s Pit Stop

    Like

    Reply
  5. Mainy - myrealfairy

    Good timing and all so relevant. I have been trying to raise awareness within my own company and this really helps, thank you!
    Mainy
    #bloggerspitstop

    Like

    Reply
    1. Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D. Post author

      Thank you Mainy. My state just reached a record number of people hospitalized for influenza and almost surpassed the most flu deaths since numbers have been tracked. The numbers would probably be higher if we did not have vaccination. It’s not 100% effective, but it does make a difference.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. Linda Barnby

    I think the wearing of masks when you are sick should become a sign of courtesy by people who are sick and run the risk of infecting others!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D. Post author

      You are so right Linda. At my clinic, everyone with suspected flu gets one to put on at check in. All those diagnosed with flu puts a mask on before leaving the exam room (if they don’t already have one on) and takes home an extra one and is encouraged to use them. Thanks for the reminder.

      Like

      Reply
  7. Pingback: 6 tips to cope during a flu epidemic — watercress words-exploring the HEART of health – Microbiology Explained

  8. Pat

    Very timely words! I wish everyone would get the flu shot. Please address the fact that many people untruthfully believe the flu shot makes them ill

    Like

    Reply
    1. Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D. Post author

      Thank you Pat. I was just addressing misinformation in my comment to Melissa. You are right , the vaccine does not cause influenza, the virus is not live. If you get sick right after a flu shot, you had already caught that illness. The vaccine is not 100% effective, but we are noticing that when vaccinated people do get influenza, the symptoms are milder than those who aren’t.

      Like

      Reply
    1. Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D. Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Melissa. I wish it wasn’t so needed, this flu season has been brutal. I still don’t understand why so many people fear influenza vaccination, and why so many people spread inaccurate information about it. I think to do so is irresponsible.

      Like

      Reply

Please comment or ask a question

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s