Flu season: Tips for staying well

February 2013 Posted in Your Health

By Kristine Thomas

Admit it. If you haven’t gotten it yet, you are weary of being near anyone who sneezes or coughs or complains that even his or her hair hurts.

While February is known for festive activities like Valentine’s and Groundhog’s days, it’s also known as a month when the flu and cold season cause havoc, and January’s been bad enough.

A Silverton High School graduate, Dr. Julian Uselman of Silverton Family Physicians met with Our Town in mid-January to offer some advice on how to survive cold and flu season. He saw his first verified case of the flu on Jan. 11.

Describe flu symptoms

“A classic sign of the flu is a fever that is above 101 or 102 degrees. It’s an all over the body ache where even your hair is going to hurt. When I see patients with the flu, they feel horrible and look horrible. When someone has the flu, they don’t want to get up. Flu symptoms are a dry cough, like a tickle or pain in the throat; sore throat; headache and body aches. With the flu, you can be fine in the morning and feeling terrible in the afternoon. That’s how fast it can hit you.”

How long does the flu last?

There is a one to two day incubation period from the time a person contacts the flu to the symptoms appearing, he said. It can take four to seven days for a person to start feeling better. The flu can be slow to recover from and people can feel run down and want to sleep, he said.

When does flu season begin and end? Is it too late for a flu shot?

“Flu season generally starts in October and runs until March. It is never too late to get a flu shot. I recommend people calling their healthcare provider to make an appointment for a flu shot or going to their local pharmacy.”

When should a patient see his or her doctor if he or she has the flu?

If in doubt, call your physician, Uselman said. “Go to the ER or Urgent Care if you have chronic health problems such as heart, kidney, liver or lung diseases. If you are having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting or a fever above 104 degrees, you should see a doctor. He emphasized it’s better to call your doctor and discuss your symptoms, than to avoid doing so.

How is the flu virus spread?

If someone coughs or sneezes within 6-feet of you and doesn’t cover his cough, the droplets carry the virus. That’s why it’s important to cover your mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing and to wash hands frequently. Not everyone who is exposed to the flu gets it. Only 20 to 30 percent of people who are exposed will come down with symptoms, according to the Center for Disease Control.

How is a cold different from the flu?

“There are thousands of different viruses that cause a cold. The symptoms are running nose, sore throat, fever,” Uhelman said.

How long does a cold last?

A cold can last a day to two weeks.

What are some ways to prevent getting the flu or a cold?

“Wash hands before eating and keep your hands away from your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – that’s how germs spread. Get at least eight hours of sleep a night, eat healthy food – stay away from fast food.”

When is it safe to return to work or school after having the flu or cold?

“If you have a fever, stay home. You are putting yourself and others at risk if you return to work too soon.

How do you treat the flu?

“If you have the flu, you need plenty of rest and fluids. If you have nausea or vomiting, don’t drink a glass of water quickly. Instead, take small sips every five minutes. It is scientifically proven that chicken soup can shorten the duration of the flu meaning your mom was right when she said eat your chicken soup.”

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