The Center for Disease Control’s flu map shows that influenza is widespread throughout much of the U.S. right now.
Texoma Medical Center Director of Infection Prevention Donna Glenn said the local area hasn’t seen a really bad flu season in a number of years, but this season might be worse than most recent ones. And, she said, this season isn’t anywhere near its peak.
That can come as late as March.
But all of that isn’t to say that people aren’t getting sick with the flu in this area. They are, she said, and the problem is many of them don’t even know it yet, which means they are likely to be out there passing those germs around.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
The best bet to keep from coming down with all of that nastiness, Glenn said, is to wash your hands, a lot. The best bet to keep from spreading the flu, she said, is to stay home if you are sick and to cover your mouth if you cough or your nose if you sneeze.
Additionally, Glenn said it is good to note that it isn’t too late to get a flu shot. While it is true that the shot isn’t as effective as it has been in years past, it is still worth getting because it can lessen severity. Glenn said lessening the severity is about all one can hope for once they come down with the flu.
You can’t really cure the flu with things like antibiotics, the CDC says. Antiviral drugs can help the situation by shortening the duration of the illness and lessening its severity. Those things are especially important to people who are at high risk for complications from the flu, including the very young, older people and people with compromised immune systems.
So if you can get the flu shot, it should lessen the severity and if you get the flu, you can take antivirals which can lessen the severity. The antivirals, the CDC says, work best if taken within two days of the onset of the illness.
Once one has the flu, the best thing to do, Glenn said, is to treat the symptoms. That means taking things like Advil or Tylenol for the fever and body aches and decongestants for congestion. Glenn said she avoids taking medicines that are designed to treat a combination of symptoms.
“People should read the labels,” she said, adding people should make sure they aren’t doubling up on medication by taking acetaminophen containing cough medication and then taking Tylenol for body aches.
Drinking plenty of fluids and trying to eat something, she said, is important, as is rest.
Getting over the flu can take between two to four weeks depending upon one’s general overall health to begin with.
“Most people, it is going to take two weeks,” she said.
But, she added, more than 40,000 people each year don’t recover at all from the flu. For that reason, people with weakened immune systems, respiratory disorders or those who are very young or older should go to the doctor when they first come down with the flu. Others, she said, should not need to go to the doctor unless see signs that things are getting worse. The CDC says those signs include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever or worse cough.
Those who do get sick should stay home until they are no longer contagious, the CDC says. That means staying home until one has been fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications.