Answers for your questions on the flu

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The news is full of dreadful, heartbreaking stories about this being the worst flu season since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. So, I thought it would be a good idea to answer some questions you may have such as how can you tell itís the flu, when should you seek medical care and what can you do to prevent the spread of influenza?

Letís start with how do you know itís really the flu? You feel achy and stuffy. Is it the flu or just a common cold?

ďIn general, people with the flu get sick more suddenly, look much sicker, and feel much weaker than if the ailment were a common cold. Higher fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more often symptoms of the flu, whereas runny or stuffy nose are more often associated with common colds,Ē www.emedinehealth.com explains.

They say that the flu will cause severe aches and pains in the joints and muscles (especially in the back) and around the eyes. Youíll feel extremely weak and will have a headache, dry cough, sore throat and watery discharge from the nose or nasal congestion. Children may have diarrhea and/or be vomiting. Your skin will be flushed and you may have red, watery eyes.

Should you wait it out, call the doctor or go to the hospital? An article on www.livescience.com explains:

ďFor sick people, thereís no downside to going to the hospital or seeking care from a professional, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease specialist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The antiviral drugs that can help people with the flu work better if they are prescribed early on, he said.Ē

He recommends calling your health professionalís office to describe your symptoms because often he or she will call in a prescription to your pharmacy without requiring you to come in first.

If you donít have a healthcare professional or itís the weekend, go to Bonner General Immediate Care. Donít wait.

Go to Bonner General Health immediately if you canít catch your breath, your fever is over 101 degrees and doesnít come down when you take acetaminophen or if youíre feeling completely fatigued to the point of being unable to do anything but lie in bed.

If you choose to treat at home, but arenít getting any better after two or three days, get yourself to a healthcare professional. The last thing you want is for the flu to develop into pneumonia and judging from the news reports that Iíve read, thatís fairly common right now even for people who are normally very healthy.

Dr. Adalja said some groups are at higher risk of developing complications from the flu.

ďFor example, pregnant women, people who have had organ transplants and cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy should strongly consider seeking care at the earliest signs of illness. Children under 6 months old, frail older adults and people with respiratory conditions such as severe asthma are at especially high risk of developing pneumonia during a flue infection,Ē he said.

Now, what can you do to prevent getting the flu? Simple. Stay away from anyone who has it. Oh, thatís not possible? Next best thing is to get your flu shot. No, itís not too late. And, even if it doesnít stop you from getting sick, it will help you to get less sick than those who havenít had a vaccination.

We all know that influenza is highly contagious. ďThe virus is spread when you either inhale infected droplets in the air or when you come in direct contact with an infected personís secretions.Ē Emedicinehealth says.

Surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, keyboards, phones that are touched by a sick person can transfer the virus to your hands. Touch your nose, mouth or eyes and, voila, you have the flu.

Todayís take away: Wash your hands frequently in hot soapy water, stay home if youíre sick (24-hours after the fever breaks), get a flu shot (if you havenít already) and see a healthcare professional if symptoms occur. BGH is here for your health, take advantage of it.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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