Tag Archives: antibiotics

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
a man taking his temperature

How you can cope with winter illness

Where I live we recently had our first freeze of the winter. It gets dark earlier now since we “fell back” to standard time. And we’ve already had our first reported cases of influenza, which I reviewed in a previous post.

Chances are you or someone close to you will have a respiratory illness this winter , illnesses we frequently just lump into the category of “colds and flu”.  This usually means illnesses with some combination of these symptoms-

  • Sneezing, stuffy  or runny nose,
  • coughing
  • sore throat, hoarseness
  • ear pain, fullness
  • fever,
  • body aches, fatigue, 
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea 
  • headache.

We call these by various names but they have much in common, including symptoms and treatment. Let’s talk about what you can do to cope when they hit your family.

diagram of the nose and sinuses

Winter illnesses commonly affect the nose, throat, sinuses, ears and lungs.

Don’t panic.

Most otherwise healthy people recover from common respiratory illnesses. You may be miserable for several days, and need several weeks to feel back to normal, but you won’t suffer any permanent harm.

Fever ,especially in children, alarms parents. Don’t ignore it but don’t panic either. Reading this post should help you keep calm about fever .

a woman taking her temperature

This photograph depicted a woman who was using a modern, battery-powered oral thermometer, in order to measure her body temperature. In order to return an accurate reading, this particular type of thermometer needed to be placed beneath the user’s tongue, for a set amount of time, beeping when the ambient, sublingual temperature was reached. Photo credit-James Gathany, CDC, public domain

Some  people are at risk of developing  severe symptoms and serious complications from respiratory illnesses, so seek medical help sooner, rather than later. These include

  • Infants, especially under one month old
  • Elderly,  now a relative term, advanced age, especially combined with chronic disease
  • Those with chronic lung disease, like asthma, COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis
  • People on drugs that suppress the immune system
  • Other chronic diseases – diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer 

If you are not sure if you fit into one of these categories, ask your doctor.

Check here for tips on

the difference between a cold (acute rhino-sinusitis) and flu (influenza)

rhinoceros

“Rhino” obviously means NOSE.

What you need to know about influenza. 

Stay home.

This is when you shouldn’t share- germs that is. These illnesses spread person to person, so minimize contact.

Keep your kids home from school and stay home from work, at least the first few days, when you are  the most contagious. When  there is widespread illness in your community, avoid crowds and public gatherings.

Resting, getting extra sleep, drinking fluids and staying warm and dry  make staying at home therapeutic.

Wash hands.

Speaking of person to person contact, the best way to avoid getting or giving germs is to wash your hands often, but especially after being with others ,using a restroom,  and before cooking or eating. Cleaning household surfaces helps too, as well as clothing and linens. Don’t forget to clean your cell phone, tablets, and keyboards too. 

Hand hygiene saves lives.

a common sight now in public restrooms

Use medication wisely.

Some of these illnesses have a specific medication that clear it faster- strep throat, influenza, pneumonia. The others will “run their course” and meds are used to help relieve symptoms.

Many people assume that any illness with fever, sore throat and cough will improve with an antibiotic. The fact is, most will not. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria, and most of these are caused by viruses. To learn more read about

How to navigate the antibiotic highway 

These illnesses cause the greatest overuse of antibiotics, contribute to the cost of health care, and the development of antibiotic resistance. Please do not insist on an antibiotic if the doctor says you don’t need it; if offered an antibiotic, ask why.

6 smart facts about antibiotic use

Does nasal drainage and congestion need treatment with an antibiotic?

Maybe not. Learn how to sort out sinusitis.

WebMD offers this advice on choosing non-prescription cold remedies

 Be patient

The “24 hour virus” is for the most part a myth. Expect to be ill anywhere from 3 to 10 days; some symptoms, especially cough, can linger for weeks. If you are a smoker, this is a great time to quit. 

But if after 7-10 days you are getting progressively worse, instead of better, something more may be going on, so it’s wise to seek professional medical help.

 

 

I would love for you to share this  information (but not our germs) on your social media pages.

And follow Watercress Words for more information, instruction, and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH .

 

My favorite home remedy for a cold is a warm cup of tea,

it always makes me feel better.

White House China teacup

Please help support this blog by purchasing at these affiliate links and visiting the advertisers on this page.  Thanks.



Free Samples with every order

Hand hygiene saves lives.

6 things you need to know to get through the flu season

As I write this, the World Series of baseball has just concluded, football games dominate the weekends, and basketball is getting started. Another season is also looming- the influenza-flu season.

This is usually the busiest time of the year in physician offices, urgent care clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals. This information may make this season easier for you and for your doctor.

1. If you think you have the “flu”, you probably don’t.

To many people “the flu” is any respiratory illness characterized by  fever, cough, congestion, fatigue and aches. That term has become so nonspecific even we doctors use it that way. But flu should refer  to influenza,  one of many viruses that cause respiratory illness.

The other viral respiratory illnesses  are

  • rhinosinusitis, aka “colds”, upper respiratory infections-URIs,
  • bronchitis,
  • pharyngitis,
  • pneumonia.
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  “rapid flu” test, we doctors diagnosed influenza by the characteristic symptoms,  exam, and knowing there was an outbreak in the community. The test is helpful for confirmation but not absolutely necessary, but  patients have come to expect it now.

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  other reputable medical organizations recommend vaccination against influenza.

People refuse vaccination because they believe it is ineffective, unnecessary, dangerous, toxic, unnatural, subversive, and who knows what else.  I don’t think I or anyone else are going to change their minds.

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.

If you don’t want a “flu shot”, just say no. Your doctor doesn’t need or want to hear a speech; we’ve already heard them all.

  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.
  • 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.

There are 3 antiviral drugs that will “shorten the duration and severity of symptoms” by 1-2 days, if started early. The effectiveness is uncertain for an illness that will resolve within 10-14 days regardless. But if it gets you back to school or work a day earlier, it may be worth the cost-they are not cheap drugs.

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

Acetaminophen for aches and fever

Lozenges for sore throat, cough, and congestion

Breathing moist air with the use of a humidifier  helps with cough and congestion

(the previous are affiliate links. )

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

People 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.

Persons with chronic illnesses like diabetes, lung disorders, depressed immune systems and cancer 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.

Influenza is a disease to take seriously; consider my suggestions, talk to your doctor, and stay healthy this season.

 

Please share this post and follow  Watercress Words  for more information, instruction, and inspiration about common medical problems.

Here are some previous posts about infections .

Get Smart About Antibiotics

“Most common infections, such as colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections, are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotic treatment. ”

6 smart facts about antibiotics

“You may think of antibiotics as safe, harmless drugs with no potential for serious effects.  Usually antibiotics are well tolerated and safe. But serious side effects are possible, though infrequent.”

Sorting out sinusitis

“If you have a bacterial sinus infection with more than mild symptoms, an antibiotic may relieve symptoms and help you recover sooner. “

7 overused medications

This week I discuss  7 groups of medications that are overused. This, and the next post about drugs which are underused, has many links; you may want to bookmark for future review.

medication capsules

Sometimes we need medication, but sometimes we don’t.

 

I call these drugs overused.  However, I do not mean

 

  • That you should never take  them
  • That you should quit using them
  • That your doctor should not prescribe them
  • That you should quit taking them if your doctor prescribed them
  • That they are bad or dangerous drugs

 

We should think more about when, why and how to use these drugs.

 

By drugs and medications, I consider any substance we put into our bodies to treat or prevent a disease or symptom, whether prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC), synthetic or “natural”. I’m not considering foods,nor any substance that is illegal or mostly recreational in this discussion.

I picked classes of drugs that I am most familiar with as a family physician so excluded highly specialized medications like cancer chemotherapy, cardiovascular drugs, anti-rheumatics and neurological drugs.  

I based my assessment on my professional experience as well as medical literature and the opinions of other physicians. As always, your best source of information about the right drugs for your conditions is your personal physician.

 

Antibiotics

Every infectious disease expert says we use  too many antibiotics unnecessarily-but we keep doing it. Doctors and patients share the responsibility of using antibiotics appropriately.

Reasons to avoid antibiotics

They don’t help most of the things we use them for, namely respiratory infections which are usually caused by viruses.

They add to the cost of medical care.

They frequently cause side effects; they are one of the top four causes of adverse drug reactions that lead to ER visits and hospital admission.

They can change the balance of the good bacteria that live in our bodies, the microbiome.

6 smart facts about antibiotic use

 

Here is a previous post about the use and misuse of antibiotics for respiratory infections, the most common culprit in the inappropriate antibiotic battle.

How to navigate the antibiotic highway

 

Opioid pain medication

These are the drugs that comprise the current opiate epidemic. Like antibiotics, they are a frequent cause for ER visits and admissions for adverse reactions.  Unlike antibiotics, they can create physical and mental dependency and addiction, and can be fatal in overdose which is happening more often. The New York Times reports 

 

Opioid poisonings increase in toddlers and teenagers

 

Some of the overdose deaths are accidental, especially in children, but in adolescents and adults are too often intentional.

Used properly, opiates relieve severe pain due to cancer, trauma,and  surgery, but doctors and patients should consider other alternatives for less severe pain first, especially if it is a long term condition.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN medical correspondent, suggests doctors and patients work together to achieve pain relief without the risk of addiction.

“But most simply, we as doctors need to engage our patients and discuss treatment with them, whether its short term opioids or alternatives like physical and occupational therapy. We need to help set realistic expectations for our patients: Living entirely pain free is not always possible. As doctors, we need to have follow-up conversations with our patients to see how treatment is going. If we better understand our patients, we can provide better treatment and help develop pain strategies that are effective and safe.”

 

Talk to your doctor if you believe your use of opiate pain medication has become a problem.

Doctors must lead us out of our opioid abuse epidemic

 

lying woman with palm full of pills

Deaths from accidental and intentional opioid overdoses are skyrocketing.

 

Anti-inflammatory drugs

These are the  non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, referred to as NSAIDs. This includes generic ibuprofen and naproxen, available in both otc and prescription strengths. ( Brand names include Motrin, Advil and Aleve.) There are other NSAIDs but these are most frequently used.

 

When these drugs first hit the market, we were excited to have effective drugs for people with joint pain from  arthritis. Then we recognized they also worked well for headaches, menstrual pain, and other  forms of muscle and joint pain.

 

Now they seem to have become the go-to drugs for almost any discomfort or symptom, with people taking multiple doses daily (often exceeding the recommended dose) without medical supervision. 

 

Although usually well tolerated, they do pose risk to the kidney, heart and liver, especially in people who already have disorders of those organs. And they can cause stomach ulcers with bleeding in anyone.

 

Acetaminophen

 

The name Tylenol has become synonymous with the drug acetaminophen, although there are other brands and generic versions. Sometimes abbreviated APAP, this drug relieves pain and reduces fever, and is used frequently by adults who also give it to their children. It does not carry the risk of stomach ulcers as do the NSAIDs. However, it also can cause harm to the liver and kidney.

 

At this link you can

understand your OTC pain reliever options better 

 

 

Sleeping medications

Many people have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting a restful sleep and turn to medications, both prescription and non-prescription for help.

Sleep specialists avoid the routine use of sleeping medications, due to lack of effectiveness long term and potential side effects and risks. They recommend altering conditions related to sleep such as bedtime, sleeping arrangements, temperature and activities, often called sleep hygiene, or mind-body interventions like meditation, hypnosis, yoga, tai chi and music.

Here is a Consumer Reports review of

Sleeping pills for insomnia 

person sleeping on a couch

Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge.

 

 

 

 

Rescue inhalers for asthma

 

People use quick acting or rescue inhalers for asthma or COPD symptoms. The inhalers usually relieve symptoms promptly and if they aren’t, people may believe the inhaler “isn’t working”.

 

Instead, it may mean that the lungs aren’t “working” to full capacity  and need more aggressive treatment. Continuing to use the inhaler repeatedly with little or no relief can be dangerous and lead to respiratory failure. Instead, you need to seek medical attention at a  clinic or hospital emergency room.

This article explains

Inhaled asthma medications 

 

 

Vitamins,  minerals and other supplements

 

People spend $37 billion annually on vitamins,  minerals  and other supplements with little to no  proof that they prevent or treat anything. Most nutrition scientists teach that appropriate eating will supply our requirements for vitamins and minerals.

 

Vitamins and/or minerals are recommended in some medical situations, including-

  • Pregnancy and nursing
  • People with intestinal disorders who absorb nutrients poorly
  • People with restricted diets for any reason
  • People with or at high risk of macular degeneration, a cause of blindness

 

Find out why

most adults don’t need dietary supplements 

In a future post I will discuss non-drug alternatives to these drugs and others.

 

Listen to a podcast by two physicians at 2 Docs Talk

Are supplements good medicine?

 

Come back in 2 weeks to find out what 7 medications I call underused.

 

Do you know the best questions to ask about your healthcare?

I blog about healthcare communication because you need to understand your doctor better and  we doctors need to understand our patients’ expectations, concerns and obstacles.

Physicians should  use clear understandable plain language with patients. Patients should also be clear and specific when they talk to their doctor.

You may think your doctor knows exactly what you mean, but sometimes we are left trying to read between the lines of what you tell us.

Dr. Aletha talking to a mother and her son

Talking to a patient through an interpreter makes communication extra challenging.

You know it’s important to tell us details of your symptoms, medical history, family history, habits, and other medical facts.   But besides medical information about you , we need to know

Your expectations about your care,

Your concerns about your care,

Your obstacles to getting care,

You may wonder, won’t or shouldn’t my doctor ask me theses questions? Sure, we can ask and probably will, but by volunteering it , you start dialogue that gets you and your doctor communicating effectively much faster. Your doctor knows about disease, but you as the patient know the experience of the illness much better. 

Let me illustrate by giving you some examples. These are all statements patients say  to me in my daily practice. The original statements aren’t bad or wrong, but by rephrasing to add some additional detail they  give your doctor valuable information that will help provide you the best care possible.

The underlined words can be substituted for others listed in parentheses.  The exact words aren’t as important as the  message they convey. 

Hello doctor, I’m here because I want my thyroid checked.

(substitute heart, lungs, cholesterol, blood sugar, kidneys, etc.)

Instead try-

Hello doctor, I’m tired a lot, and wondered if it might be a thyroid problem or something else. What testing would help us find out what’s wrong with me?

It’s better not to limit your doctor to checking just one thing, when there are many possible explanations for your symptoms. You expect a thyroid check, but you’re open to other possibilities.

tubes used to collect blood samples in a lab

 

Doctor, I feel terrible and think I have  pneumonia. The last time I felt like this the doctor said it was pneumonia, so it must be that again.

( sub kidney infection, strep throat, sinus infection)

But if you say this

Doctor, I feel so sick. This illness is similar to when I was diagnosed with pneumonia and I’m afraid I have it again. I am concerned it’s pneumonia again so  I’m here to find out what is wrong, as I realize it may be something else.

You’ve told the doctor your concern about pneumonia but you’re not trying to diagnose yourself.

 

 

I have a family history of cancer so I want to have a mammogram.

(sub any other cancer, heart disease, stroke and other tests)

That’s good, but this is better.

Doctor, I’m concerned about breast cancer as it runs in my family. My grandmother was diagnosed at age 45 and now my sister has been, and she is 40. Do I need a mammogram or any other testing now?

Knowing who in your family had a disease and at what ages helps the doctor make an accurate recommendation. It also tells your doctor this may be an emotional issue  (concern)  for you.

Top 10 cancers in the U.S.

 

 

I need an antibiotic (anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxer, steroid, shot )  for this; I know because my previous doctor always gave me one for this.

Please try this instead:

When I had this before my doctor prescribed an antibiotic; I wonder if that would be appropriate this time?

This tells the doctor your expectation, but also that  you are open to different  advice/recommendation. (and avoid getting a medication you don’t need.) 

6 smart facts about antibiotic use

 

 

 

Will my insurance pay for this? How much will this cost me? Is this an expensive drug?

Patients may expect us to know about insurance and cost, but often we don’t. We can work with you on financial issues if we know more about your obstacle. Try asking-

I need to find out if this is covered by my insurance. Can someone in your office look that up, or help me find out?

I’ve had a lot of medical bills this year that have stretched my budget. I will need to find out what my out of pocket cost will be before scheduling this test. Can your office help me with that?

If there is a generic version of this drug that will work just as well, I would like it, to minimize my out of pocket cost. If not, is there another alternative?

 

 

Is this drug safe? (effective, good, best, dangerous, harmful)  

Few things are 100% safe. But what we can discuss with you is –

What are the risks and side effects of this drug? Is the benefit I get from the drug worth the risks? Are there alternatives that would be effective and less risky?

We always should be concerned about drug use, and safety isn’t the only issue. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

medication capsules

 

 

 

 

 

How long will I be off work? When can I go back to work?

Here’s what your doctor needs to know –

My job requires me to stand and walk for several hours?

(sit and type; talk on the telephone; drive long distances in my car)

And here’s what you need to ask:

How soon should I expect my stamina to return so I can work part time? Full time?

When can I safely work without interfering with my recovery?

What can I do to hasten my recovery so I can return to work sooner?

Both  you and your employer, need to know when it is safe to return to work.  We have to balance health concerns with your financial concerns and what is expected and allowed by your employer and the law. 

If you are clear  with your concerns and obstacles  and flexible in your expectations it will be easier for your doctor to make the right decision.

 

 

These are just a few examples. I’m sure you can think of others.

Whenever you have a need to consult a physician, think ahead of what your

expectations, concerns and obstacles are before you make the visit so you’ll  be

prepared to share .

Here are  more tips on talking with your doctor-

How to talk to your doctor to improve your medical care

How to tell your doctor what’s wrong with you.

I invite you to follow this blog as we explore the HEART of health together.

 

Dr. Danielle Ofri’s book  What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear,

details the reasons doctors and patients don’t communicate well

and offers ways to improve our interaction.

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear by Danielle Ofri, MD

written by Danielle Ofri, M.D.

(this is an affiliate link)

Hand hygiene saves lives.

6 things you need to know to get through the flu season

This week autumn begins in the northern hemisphere. Where I live, fall brings brilliant orange,yellow and red to our trees and shrubs,  the start of the school term and football season. Unfortunately,  fall also brings the cold and flu season.

 

This is usually the busiest time of the year in physician offices, urgent care clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals. This information may make this season easier for you and for your doctor.

 

 

1. If you think you have the “flu”, you probably don’t. 

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

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  “rapid flu” test, we doctors diagnosed influenza by the characteristic symptoms,  exam, and knowing there was an outbreak in the community. The test is helpful for confirmation and patients have come to expect it now.

 

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  other reputable medical organizations recommend vaccination against influenza.

 

People refuse vaccination because they believe it is ineffective, unnecessary, dangerous, toxic, unnatural, subversive, and who knows what else.  I don’t think I or anyone else are going to change their minds.

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.

If you don’t want a “flu shot”, just say no. Your doctor doesn’t need or want to hear a speech; we’ve already heard them all.

  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.
  • 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.

There are 2 antiviral drugs that will “shorten the duration and severity of symptoms” by 1-2 days, if started early. The effectiveness is uncertain for an illness that will resolve within 10-14 days regardless. But if it gets you back to school or work a day earlier, it may be worth the cost-they are not cheap drugs.

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

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.

I cringed last year when a friend wrote on her social media page, “My doctor said, ‘No one dies of the flu’.” And, technically, that is true. People 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.

Persons with chronic illnesses like diabetes, lung disorders, depressed immune systems and cancer 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.

Influenza is a disease to take seriously; consider my suggestions, talk to your doctor, and stay healthy this season.

Here are some other posts about winter illness you may find helpful.

 

Get Smart About Antibiotics

6 smart facts about antibiotics

Sorting out sinusitis

 

a man taking his temperature

How to cope with winter illness

Where I live we recently had our first freeze of the winter. It gets dark earlier now since we “fell back” to standard time. And we’ve already had our first reported cases of influenza, which I reviewed in a previous post.

Chances are you or someone close to you will have a respiratory illness this winter , illnesses we frequently just lump into the category of “colds and flu”.  This usually means illnesses with some combination of these symptoms-

  • Sneezing, stuffy  or runny nose,
  • coughing
  • sore throat, hoarseness
  • ear pain, fullness
  • fever,
  • body aches, fatigue, 
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea 
  • headache.

We call these by various names but they have much in common, including symptoms and treatment. Let’s talk about what you can do to cope when they hit your family.

diagram of the nose and sinuses

Winter illnesses commonly affect the nose, throat, sinuses, ears and lungs.

Don’t panic.

Most otherwise healthy people recover from common respiratory illnesses. You may be miserable for several days, and need several weeks to feel back to normal, but you won’t suffer any permanent harm.

Fever ,especially in children, alarms parents. Don’t ignore it but don’t panic either. Reading this post should help you keep calm about fever .

a woman taking her temperature

This photograph depicted a woman who was using a modern, battery-powered oral thermometer, in order to measure her body temperature. In order to return an accurate reading, this particular type of thermometer needed to be placed beneath the user’s tongue, for a set amount of time, beeping when the ambient, sublingual temperature was reached. Photo credit-James Gathany, CDC, public domain

Some  people are at risk of developing  severe symptoms and serious complications from respiratory illnesses, so seek medical help sooner, rather than later. These include

  • Infants, especially under one month old
  • Elderly,  now a relative term, advanced age, especially combined with chronic disease
  • Those with chronic lung disease, like asthma, COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis
  • People on drugs that suppress the immune system
  • Other chronic diseases – diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer 

If you are not sure if you fit into one of these categories, ask your doctor.

Check here for tips on

the difference between a cold (acute rhino-sinusitis) and flu (influenza)

rhinoceros

“Rhino” obviously means NOSE.

What you need to know about influenza. 

Stay home.

This is when you shouldn’t share- germs that is. These illnesses spread person to person, so minimize contact.

Keep your kids home from school and stay home from work, at least the first few days, when you are  the most contagious. When  there is widespread illness in your community, avoid crowds and public gatherings.

Resting, getting extra sleep, drinking fluids and staying warm and dry  make staying at home therapeutic.

Wash hands.

Speaking of person to person contact, the best way to avoid getting or giving germs is to wash your hands often, but especially after being with others ,using a restroom,  and before cooking or eating. Cleaning household surfaces helps too, as well as clothing and linens.

Hand hygiene saves lives.

a common sight now in public restrooms

Use medication wisely.

Some of these illnesses have a specific medication that clear it faster- strep throat, influenza, pneumonia. The others will “run their course” and meds are used to help relieve symptoms.

Many people assume that any illness with fever, sore throat and cough will improve with an antibiotic. The fact is, most will not. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria, and most of these are caused by viruses. To learn more read about

How to navigate the antibiotic highway 

These illnesses cause the greatest overuse of antibiotics, contribute to the cost of health care, and the development of antibiotic resistance. Please do not insist on an antibiotic if the doctor says you don’t need it; if offered an antibiotic, ask why.

6 smart facts about antibiotic use

Does nasal drainage and congestion need treatment with an antibiotic?

Maybe not. Learn how to sort out sinusitis.

WebMD offers this advice on choosing non-prescription cold remedies

 Be patient

The “24 hour virus” is for the most part a myth. Expect to be ill anywhere from 3 to 10 days; some symptoms, especially cough, can linger for weeks. If you are a smoker, this is a great time to quit. 

But if after 7-10 days you are getting progressively worse, instead of better, something more may be going on, so it’s wise to seek professional medical help.

Please help your friends by sharing this information (but not our germs) on your social media pages.

And follow this blog for more information, instruction, and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH 

 

My favorite home remedy for a cold is a warm cup of tea,

it always makes me feel better.

White House China teacup

You can help support this blog by purchasing at these affiliate links. Thanks.



Free Samples with every order