As flu season quickly approaches, are you fluent in your flu facts? Brush up on your facts that includes symptoms, telling a cold from the flu, common myths and more.
Are You Fluent in The Flu?
It’s that time of year again! With sweater weather, falling leaves and cozy cups of cider also comes the things you don’t want to think of, but should – it’s also flu season. If you’ve ever been sick with the flu, you know just how miserable it can be. At HCA Midwest Health, we want you to stay healthy so you can enjoy all the great things cooler weather brings, so let’s brush up on everything you need to know about the flu and how to keep yourself from getting it.
Is It a Cold or Is It the Flu?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a virus that infects the respiratory system causing symptoms such as body aches, chills, high fever, headache and fatigue. Flu symptoms can happen suddenly and can be pretty severe. In fact, the flu can be so serious that it sent 200,000 people to the hospital and causes 36,000 deaths in the United States last year alone.
Here’s where it can get tricky, the flu is known to bring on additional symptoms that are cold-like, such as sore throat, sneezing, hoarseness and cough. Cold symptoms are similar but a lot milder, come on slowly and include a runny or stuffy nose. Learn about the differences to get the treatment you need so you can feel better sooner.
Stay Away from Germs
There are many ways to prevent yourself from getting sick from the flu and they are a lot easier than you think.
- The flu virus can actually travel up to 6 feet when someone coughs or sneezes and can also live on some surfaces up to 8 hours. So if you know someone who is sick, or are sick yourself, keep contact with others at a distance.
- 20-30% of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms, which is another reason to keep things clean.
- Try to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth where the virus is most likely to spread. Washing your hands often with soap and water is a really easy way to keep yourself from getting sick. If you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand rub will work in a pinch. Surfaces touched by people often, like door knobs and keyboards, should be disinfected often as well.
Flu Shots Are Your Friend
We know that for some, the thought of getting a flu shot can be daunting, but it’s your best bet to prevent yourself from getting sick. The CDC recommends that everyone over six months old receive the flu shot, especially people over 49, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses.
Getting your flu shot early in the season (no later than the end of October) helps prepare your body for fighting infection by keeping your immunity strong. It also takes about two weeks for the vaccine to make the antibodies it needs to fight infection, making it even more important to get your flu shot as soon as it is available to you. (If you haven’t gotten yours, it’s not too late!)
Because the flu shot is different each year and changes as the virus mutates, you’ll need to get a new shot every year.
If you’re worried that the shot will make you sick, it is highly unlikely. The vaccine is not comprised of a live virus and therefore cannot cause you to get the flu. If you feel like you are experiencing virus-related symptoms after your shot, you were likely sick prior to receiving it.
The primary care physicians at HCA Midwest Health can administer flu shots for you and your family. You can even make an appointment online! We also offer flu shots at any of our 8 urgent care locations conveniently located throughout Kansas City.
Treating the Flu at Home
There are many over-the-counter medicines you can take to help ease flu symptoms. To avoid worsening symptoms or complications from the flu, try the following at-home remedies.
- Rest up to give your body the energy it needs to fight the flu virus.
- Take your medicine, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, as directed to help with fever and body aches.
- Eat well to give your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. A balanced diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats to keep your body strong.
- Drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Hot liquids like broths and teas also help with easing congestion.
Remember, untreated symptoms can lead to hospitalization or can even cause death, so see your doctor if things get worse. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following go to the emergency room immediately:
- shortness of breath
- extremely high fever*
- coughing up blood
- trouble breathing
- uncontrolled vomiting
- chest pain or pressure
- cannot hold down liquids
* It’s important to mention that not everyone who has the flu will have a fever.
Treating a Fever Correctly
One of the biggest misconceptions we hear from our patients with regards to flu symptoms is how to treat a fever. A fever, over 100.4 F, means your body is working hard to fight the bad stuff that’s making you sick. Never, ever, decrease the amount of food you eat to fight a fever. On the contrary, you’ll need extra fluids and the proper nutrition to give your body what it needs to help make you better. Over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help. Ask your doctor which is right for you or whomever you are caring for.
Don’t Let the Flu Get to You
At HCA Midwest Health, we know when you are feeling ill, you want medical care quickly and without a hassle. If you’re looking for a doctor in the Kansas City area, make appointments online or visit one of our eight CareNow® urgent care clinics. If your symptoms are worsening or not getting better, visit one of our 11 local emergency rooms.