Influenza season or “the flu” is nothing new, but there is often a lot of confusion about the virus itself, the vaccination, and symptoms surrounding it. ClearChoiceMD’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Thomas Scott, hopes to increase awareness of the flu by sharing with you some of his expert tips below.
The Seriousness of the Flu
Individuals have been known to underestimate the reality of the flu. Those most affected by the flu often come from one of three groups; young, elderly, or with weakened immune systems (for example, someone who is being treated for cancer, or who has a severe chronic disease). People from these groups who contract the flu are at high risk for pneumonia, flu-related infections and dehydration, which can be life-threatening due to their fragile immune systems.
Even if you don’t fall into one of the above three categories, the flu should still be taken seriously. The flu can cause a variety of symptoms that can cause serious illness, including death. Those who are not considered high risk for the flu and contract can put those who are young, elderly, or those who have weakened immune systems at greater risk by not taking adequate steps to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the community.
Dr. Scott’s Tip: Wear a medical face mask! If you have the flu and need to leave the comfort of your own home, it will help prevent the spread of the virus to others in the community.
How Can You Prevent the Flu?
The number one way to prevent contracting the flu is to receive the flu vaccination. There is a common misconception that it is possible for the flu vaccine to give you the flu virus. That isn’t possible because there is no active virus within the flu vaccination. Your immune system reacts to the vaccination as if it is the flu, creating antibodies against the real flu virus. Any side effects you feel from the flu vaccination are caused by the reaction of your immune system, which might mimic less severe symptoms of the flu.
Other ways to protect yourself from the flu:
- Wash your hands
- Stay away from those who are sick
- Stay home when you are feeling sick or until you are fever-free without medications for 24 hours
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Dr. Scott’s Tip: When you visit your local ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care, ask for some complimentary hand sanitizer. If you are in a situation where washing your hands isn’t feasible, hand sanitizer is a great alternative.
Signs of The Flu
It can be quite hard for the average person to distinguish the flu from other illnesses’ such as the common cold. Some tell-tale signs of the flu are that its onset is sudden, and the infected person tends to have, fever, aches, chills, and fatigue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a chart to compare the symptoms of the cold vs. the flu to shed light on any confusion.
Dr. Scott’s Tip: If you are unsure if you have a cold or the flu please seek advice from your primary care physician or at your local ClearChoiceMD urgent care. We will evaluate you and make sure you get the best possible treatment.
What to do if You Get Sick
If you contract the flu virus, it is best to rest and drink plenty of fluids. To alleviate some of your symptoms, you can take over the counter medications such as ibuprofen, Tylenol and cough medicine. There are prescription medications that, when taken within 48 hours of the onset of your flu symptoms can limit the spread of flu within your body and decrease the length of your illness. They also help to prevent the more serious complications of the flu. So, it’s very important to see a doctor early in your illness for these medications to be most effective.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that not every person is the same and illness’ can manifest themselves in a variety of ways depending on their host. This means that although you don’t have a fever or the chills, you shouldn’t rule out the flu. If you are concerned about the health of yourself or a loved one for any reason, it is important to seek care. The following is a partial list of situations for which you should seek care immediately:
- If your fever hasn’t broken, despite acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.
- Moderate / difficulty breathing
- Cannot keep fluids in
- Feeling weak/dizzy
Dr. Scott’s Tip: Do not underestimate the importance of self-care. Self-care includes adequate hydration, rest, and diet.
The flu is a force to be reckoned with and it can sneak up on you unsuspectingly. It is important to do your part in protecting yourself, your loved ones, and those who can’t protect themselves. No-Cost Flu Shots are offered at ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care during the month of October, no appointment necessary – just walk in!