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Seasonal flu facts: By Sarah Clawson, CNP
January 9, 2015

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by a virus. The flu can be serious but most people will recover on their own.   However, some people need to go to the hospital because of the flu.  Some people even die from the flu.  This is because the flu can cause a serious lung infection called pneumonia. 

 

The flu occurs more commonly in the winter months because people spend more time in close contact with each other.  It is spread easily from person-to-person by coughing, sneezing or touching surfaces.  Anyone can get the flu, and vaccination is the best way to protect against influenza. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu and spread it to family and friends.

 

Flu symptoms can vary from person to person but usually include:

 

  • Fever (temperature higher than 100 degrees)
  • Headache and muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Some might also have a sore throat and runny nose but these are less common

 

People with the flu usually have a fever for 2-5 days.  This is different than fever caused by other respiratory viruses, which usually gets better after 24-48 hours.  Flu symptoms usually improve on their own over 2-5 days, although some may feel ill for a week or more.  Weakness and fatigue may last for several weeks.

 

To protect yourself from getting the flu you should:

 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol hand rubs
  • Stay away from people you know are sick
  • Get the flu vaccine every year-People 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated unless they have a severe allergy to the vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.  Or if they have had a severe reaction to the vaccination in the past.  Also if they have developed Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting a flu vaccine previously they should not get a flu vaccine.  Contact your health care provider if you have questions about whether you should get a flu vaccine  

 

If you think you might have the flu, stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids.  You can also take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help with fever and aches.  Most people will get better on their own but call your health care provider if you:

 

  • Have trouble breathing or are short of breath
  • Feel pain or pressure in your chest or belly
  • Get suddenly dizzy
  • Feel confused
  • Have severe vomiting

 

Take your child to a health care provider if he or she:

 

  • Starts breathing fast or has trouble breathing
  • Starts to turn blue or purple
  • Is not drinking enough fluids
  • Will not wake up or interact with you
  • Is so unhappy that he or she does not want to be held
  • Gets better from the flu but then gets sick again with a fever or cough
  • Has a fever with a rash

 

Do not go to work or school until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without taking fever reducing medication like Tylenol.

 

There are antiviral medications available by prescription that will help to lessen the severity and shorten the course of the flu.  These medications work best if started within 48 hours of symptom development.   Not everyone needs treatment for the flu, but some people do.  Your healthcare provider should decide if you need treated with antiviral medication. 

 

Madison Health Primary Care offers rapid testing for the flu using a simple nasal swab that takes 15 minutes to run in the office. 

           

Sarah Clawson is a certified nurse practitioner at Madison Health Primary Care in London.  To make an appointment, please call 740-845-7500. The practice is currently accepting new patients, including adults and children. 

 

Seasonal Influenza. (2014). Retrieved from cdc.gov/flu.

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