Are you ready for flu season? Arm yourself with information from the American College of Emergency Physicians
As cooler temperatures settle in throughout much of the country, the chance of catching the flu is going up. About 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu each year. While the infection is self-limiting in most healthy adults (aside from making you FEEL miserable), some populations, such as the elderly, young children, and pregnant women are more susceptible. As a result, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized because of flu-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 20,000 people die each year.
“Everyone, especially those over age 65, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and young children need to take steps now to help prevent the flu or at least decrease its severity,” said Dr. David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “The flu is not a minor head cold, and you can end up in the ER with serious problems if you don’t take care of yourselves.”
The flu is caused by a virus and is spread from person to person by direct contact or through virus-infected droplets coughed or sneezed in the air. Most people recover completely in one or two weeks, but some develop serious and potentially life-threatening illness, such as pneumonia.
Flu symptoms tend to develop between one and four days after a person is exposed to the virus, and people are contagious from 24 hours before they become ill until their symptoms resolve.
Symptoms of influenza include:
- High fever
- Muscle aches
- Extreme fatigue
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
For most healthy adults, these symptoms can be addressed with drinking plenty of fluids such as water, broth, and sports drinks. Take Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for fever or pain, over-the-counter cough and cold medications, and get plenty of rest.
However, if you or a family member have signs of dehydration, seizures, earache or a cough the produces discolored mucus, call your primary doctor. Seek emergency care if you have difficulty breathing, experience pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, have sudden dizziness, become confused or have severe or persistent vomiting.
If a child’s symptoms get worse over several days and if they have a temperature greater than 102 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a few days, see a doctor. Children with chronic conditions, such as severe asthma or cystic fibrosis, may require hospitalization.
“Emergency physicians highly recommend that persons who are at high risk of having serious flu complications and those who work and live with them get vaccinated each year,” said Dr. Seaberg.
The best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated every year. Now is the best time to do that, if you haven’t already.
For more information on Colds and Flu as well as any other health-related topic, go to www.EmergencyCareForYou.org