Take Extra Precautions During Flu Season’s Peak
Trident Family Health promotes prevention, so its physicians highly encourage their patients to get vaccinated against the flu. And even though the 2012-13 flu season started early, it’s not too late to vaccinate, says Dr. Sarah Edwards, a resident physician with the pro-active family practice. “If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccination, get it,” she says. “You’re not only protecting yourself from getting the flu, but also the others around you.”
Flu vaccinations are recommended for almost everyone except children under 6 months old, those who are highly allergic to eggs and those with GBS, a severe paralytic illness. Even if you have been diagnosed with the flu this season, Dr. Edwards says, you still can benefit from the vaccination, which protects against more than one flu strain. (It is possible to get sick with the flu more than once in a season because of the variance of strains.)
With more than 22 flu-related deaths and 1,000 hospitalizations reported in South Carolina through Jan. 5, this flu season has been much harsher than last year, when only one death was reported. The peak of the season may be upon us or it may not come for a few more weeks.
Another effective prevention tool is hand hygiene. Everyone should try to wash their hands with soap and water (for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song) or use antibacterial gel before eating and before touching their eyes, noses and mouths. This can protect against the spread of colds and other nasty viruses as well.
Caregivers should wash their hands frequently, avoid close face-to-face contact and create a separate sick room for the person who has the flu. Likewise, those who are sick should try not to expose other people to the virus. “If you have to go out, it’s good to wear a mask or at least cover when you cough and sneeze, so you are not spreading it to other people,” says Dr. Edwards.
Flu symptoms come on suddenly, within 24 to 48 hours of contact with the virus, and usually include a high fever. Other symptoms are headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches.
When flu is suspected, Dr. Edwards says, it’s a good idea to see a healthcare provider who can check on potential complications and determine whether you are eligible for antiviral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza. Antivirals should be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Aside from seeing the doctor, anyone with the flu should stay home, stay hydrated and rest until their fever has dropped below 100.4 for at least 24 hours. “It’s a virus, and it takes time to run its course,” says Dr. Edwards.
Call 843-797-FIND to schedule a flu vaccination or an appointment with a healthcare provider for flu diagnosis and treatment.
“You’re not only protecting yourself from getting the flu, but also the others around you.”
Dr. Sarah Edwards, Trident Family Health