During the first week of February, there were more than a thousand confirmed cases of the flu in Nebraska. One school had to close due to a terrible flu outbreak.
“We are starting to see more cases of Influenza A every day,” said Dr. Ryan Isherwood, a family practice provider at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Gretna. “Everybody is coming in with the same symptoms. They have fevers greater than 100 degrees and muscle aches. They may have some mild other symptoms such as headache, runny nose, cough and upset stomach.”
Influenza is commonly thought as a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea. But the flu virus is actually more like a terrible upper respiratory cold.
“Stomach flu which is a normal virus which causes diarrhea and vomiting,” said Dr. Isherwood. “The stomach flu usually does not have fevers or muscle aches associated with it.”
“Vomiting and diarrhea can occur, but those are usually accompanying symptoms to a primarily respiratory illness,” said Dr. Emily Bendlin, a pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court. “The influenza virus causes a respiratory illness. One of the hallmarks of influenza is that symptoms usually come on pretty suddenly, and that can help differentiate it from other respiratory illnesses. It can cause fever, cough, headaches, muscle aches and pains and fatigue.”
Ryan Isherwood, MD
Emily Bendlin, MD
For mild symptoms, the best thing you can do is simply treat with over-the-counter medications. Take a fever-reducer such as Tylenol to bring down your temperature, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.
“Since influenza is a virus, antibiotics, which treat bacterial infections, won’t help your symptoms,” said Dr. Bendlin. “In most people who are overall healthy and have mild symptoms, antiviral medication isn’t necessary. In people with more severe symptoms or with risk factors for serious complications of the flu, antiviral medications may be a good treatment option.”
So when you should see the doctor?
“If you start having fevers greater than 100 degrees for more than a day or two with muscle aches and pains, or if you know you were exposed to somebody who had influenza,” said Dr. Isherwood. “It’s important to know you only have 48 hours to be seen if you think you have influenza to get started on Tamiflu. Tamiflu can help prevent spread of disease, but it will only decrease your symptoms by one day.”
“You may also want to see the doctor if you have moderate to severe symptoms, if you have a history of chronic disease such as asthma or heart disease, or if you would like to hear more about getting antiviral medication,” said Dr. Bendlin.
Since the flu is highly contagious, to protect others, you should also make sure you practice good hand hygiene and stay home from work or school. If you have flu at home, try to keep your distance as much as possible from those who are sick and be sure to disinfect surfaces that may become contaminated.
If you have questions about influenza, be sure to talk with your Methodist Physicians Clinic health care provider.
|Katina Granger is a blogger and PR/Social Media Specialist for Methodist Health System.
Contact Katina at MethodistPR@nmhs.org.