Getting through flu season
The flu is a viral illness that should be taken seriously every year, but the 2018 flu season has been of particular concern. The New York State Department of Health has officially categorized influenza activity in New York State as geographically widespread, meaning that an increased or sustained number of lab-confirmed influenza cases have been reported in more than half of the state’s counties.
In fact, by January 27 New York had already logged eight consecutive weeks of widespread flu activity, and as we approach what is usually the end of flu season, experts are forecasting that this increased incidence of influenza may extend well into April and even May.
Due to the severity of this flu season, the Centers for Disease Control recommend that people who haven’t already gotten a flu shot this year, still do so. It takes two weeks for a flu vaccine to become fully effective in your body once it is administered, so with two months of flu season still ahead of us, a flu shot now can still provide you with up to six weeks of protection.
With there being two types of flu, A and B, it is possible to get the flu more than once if you don’t have sufficient immunity.
If you have avoided the flu, remain vigilant for these telltale signs: feeling feverish, the chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, headache and muscle aches. You may also experience nausea and related gastrointestinal issues, which contrary to popular belief are not always hallmarks of the flu. Many times, people mistake the onset of the flu for a common cold, so I suggest basing self-diagnosis on the old maxim, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”
Whether you have a couple of these symptoms or all of them, assume it is the flu and visit your health care provider or come see us at Catskill Regional Medical Group Urgent Care. No appointment needed; just walk-in. Lab tests are available to identify the flu, but you will more likely be assessed and given what is called a “clinical diagnosis” of influenza.
When flu is diagnosed within the first couple of days, medications are available that can curtail symptoms and may even shorten the duration of the illness. The medication is especially helpful for those at a higher risk of developing potentially life-threatening complications from the flu, such as people with chronic medical conditions like asthma or heart disease, the elderly and infants. For people in generally good health, managing symptoms with over-the-counter remedies, rest and ample hydration is about the best you can do to ride out the life of the infection—usually five to seven days.
Avoid infection by watching out for your hands. Wash them often and thoroughly, and keep them away from your face as much as possible. To help avoid spreading the flu, stay home from work if you’re sick and keep sick children out of school. Whether you’re caring for yourself or someone else with the flu, wipe down common surfaces regularly, wash shared utensils and cups and keep tissues close to cover coughs and sneezes.
Finally, pay special attention to a cough that lingers beyond the normal lifespan of the flu, as influenza can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. If a cough doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and especially if it seems to be getting worse, have it checked out by a medical professional.
[Rona Heublum-Colton, MD, is Medical Director of Urgent Care for the Greater Hudson Valley Health System, of which Catskill Regional Medical Center and Catskill Regional Medical Group are a part. She is board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine as well as a diplomate of the American Board of Urgent Care Medicine. Visit www.catskillregionalmedicalgroup.org or www.orangeregionalmedicalgroup.org.]