In the United States, health authorities generally consider the flu season to be between October and May. While the exact duration of the flu season varies from year to year, flu cases usually peak between the months of December and February. Up to 20 percent of the population gets the flu each year, and more than 200,000 patients are hospitalized annually due to influenza. Children and the elderly have a higher risk of contracting the illness.
To prevent the flu, doctors recommend that everyone six months of age and older receive a flu vaccine, ideally in September or October. Higher-strength flu vaccines are available for seniors, and some patients may be eligible for a nasal spray vaccine. Patients who are afraid of needles may opt for an intradermal vaccine. This option, known as Fluzone, uses a much smaller needle than other formulations. In addition to vaccination, individuals are advised to practice healthy hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer regularly. In particular, hands should be washed prior to eating and after using the bathroom. If patients develop a cough or a runny nose, they should sneeze or cough into a sleeve instead of their hands, and tissues should be disposed of immediately after use.
Flu symptoms can often be confused for the common cold. To distinguish between the two, it’s important to understand the differences in symptoms and presentation. Unlike a cold, which usually appears gradually, the flu has a rapid onset and more severe symptoms. Generally, symptoms of influenza include a fever, chills, body and muscle aches, fatigue, weakness, and headaches, all of which are rare with the common cold. Additional flu symptoms may sometimes include a sore throat, runny nose, chest congestion, and sneezing. While these symptoms may be present with the flu, they are more typical of the common cold.
The worst symptoms of the flu usually last for two to five days. Even after they subside, patients can feel very fatigued for two to three weeks following the illness. Patients should stay home while they are experiencing symptoms in order to avoid transmitting the sickness to others. Patients who have a fever should wait until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school or work. During this time, patients should be on alert for possible complications such as pneumonia. If there is any shortness of breath, chest pain, severe vomiting, headache, or confusion, patients should seek emergency treatment at a 24 hour urgent care Charlotte NC as these may be signs of a more serious condition.
Flu Testing and Treatment
Patients who suspect they have the flu may wish to visit a doctor. In particular, patients who have a fever that lasts more than three days and individuals who experience painful swallowing or sinus pain should ensure that they have a clinical evaluation. While these symptoms don’t warrant emergency care, an outpatient appointment should be scheduled. Doctors at minute clinic Charlotte NC can provide flu testing, diagnosis, and treatment. A swab of the inside of the nose or throat is taken to test for influenza, and results are available in approximately 15 minutes.
The flu can also be diagnosed through clinical observation. Physicians and nurse practitioners at minute clinics Charlotte NC can perform a general physical exam to check for the flu. Patients will be asked about their medical history and any symptoms they have experienced. Doctors will want to know how long the symptoms have been present and if anything makes them better or worse. After inquiring about the patient’s health history, the clinician will begin a brief exam. He or she will check the patient’s nose and throat for any redness, soreness, and discharge. Blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature will also be assessed. Doctors will listen to the patient’s heart and lungs, paying particular attention to any sound associated with chest congestion, wheezing, or pneumonia. The abdominal area may be felt, and patients will be asked about any vomiting or diarrhea.
If a diagnosis of flu is confirmed, doctors may prescribe antiviral medication that can shorten the duration of the illness. This medication is usually only given if a patient is believed to be in the first 48 hours of the flu. Doctors will recommend home treatment that includes drinking plenty of fluids, resting, using cough lozenges, using a humidifier, and taking acetaminophen or other fever reducers.
If it is flu season and your family has not received the flu shot, it is never too late to go get it. Be watching out for symptoms of the flu, and go to the doctor if any complications arise. By doing so, you can keep your family healthy this flu season.