Since we last chatted I sincerely hope you haven't been hit with that awful flu bug! According to the most current data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity in the United States is at a high level with an increase in hospitalizations and even deaths. It is projected that the influenza outbreak will continue across most of the U.S. for the next several weeks. If this year's influenza has unfortunately made a visit to your home and invaded your space, some of the symptoms you may be experiencing may include fever and chills, cough, sore throat, fatigue and body aches. In addition, you may also be suffering with bouts of diarrhea and vomiting.
If you believe you have the flu the CDC recommends you stay at home and avoid contact with other people. Your only outside activity should be going to the doctor or hospital for medical care. The CDC also advises staying home from work, school, travel, or public gatherings for at least 24 hours post fever. Resting and drinking plenty of water, clear liquids or sports drinks such as Gatorade to prevent dehydration is also recommended. Over the counter (OTC) drugs can be taken to treat fever and cough. These medications may relieve your symptoms but will not make you less contagious. In addition, a cool damp cloth placed on the forehead, arms, and legs can help reduce the discomfort associated with fever. If your throat is sore, gargling with salt water will often soothe throat pain. And if at all possible it is a good idea to place a humidifier in your room. A 2009 study by the National Academy of Sciences suggests humidifiers not only help you breather easier but may also stop the spread of flu germs. If you are very ill with the symptoms of influenza and are at high risk for serious complications you may need to contact your primary care doctor or other heath care provider. Your physician may prescribe an "antiviral" drug such as Tamiflu or Relenza. These "antiviral" drugs will lessen the time you are ill and may also prevent further involvement of serious complications. If you are having difficulty breathing or unable to drink enough fluid to prevent dehydration you may need to seek immediate assistance. The CDC has provided a complete list of emergency warning signs on their website to use as a guideline for seeking emergency help.
Finally, if you are the caregiver you must limit your face to face time and avoid any close contact with the person suffering with influenza. You may ask the person you are caring for to wear a face mask to cover coughs and sneezes. When holding a baby or child rest their chin on your shoulder so they don't cough directly in your face. Also, both the patient and the caregiver should wash their hands often with soap and water after direct contact or handling contaminated clothing, bedding, or used tissues to prevent the spread of influenza. Stay in and feel better soon!