If you’ve had the flu, you probably remember the awful, sudden symptoms like high fever, muscle aches and pains, headache and persistent cough. This year’s widespread flu season is still hitting communities hard, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which notes some of the highest levels of influenza-like illnesses and hospitalization rates in recent years.
Dr. Sam Ho, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare, provides tips on how to help yourself and those around you manage the rest of flu season.
1. Don’t wait. Get vaccinated.
The flu season could continue through late May and getting a flu shot right away is a good step to help protect yourself, your family and those around you. To find a list of flu vaccine providers near you, visit the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Finder. Keep in mind that it will take your body about two weeks after vaccination to develop protection against flu.
2. Avoid spreading germs.
To help avoid spreading germs, wash your hands regularly and cover your mouth (with the inside of your elbow, not your hands) when you cough or sneeze. A sneeze ejects 100,000 viral particles into the air that can travel 200 feet.
3. Feeling symptoms? Check it out.
If you think you might have the flu, even if you have had a flu shot, call your primary care physician, visit a convenience care retail clinic or urgent care clinic, or schedule a virtual visit. Treatment for any viral illness starts with lots of rest, liquids and acetaminophen/aspirin (for adults), to help the body combat the flu.
People who are very sick or who are at high risk of serious flu complications may be treated with antiviral drugs - such as oseltamivir. Your primary care physician can assess whether an antiviral medication is right for you.
4. If you’re sick, stay home.
If you suspect you have the flu, stay home to prevent spreading it to others. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others one day before symptoms appear and up to seven days after becoming sick.
5. Know your risk level.
The greatest concern with flu is for the very young, very old or those with co-existing medical conditions. Here are some examples of groups at risk and the steps they should consider taking when symptoms begin:
- Pregnant women should contact their obstetricians to report their symptoms.
- People with diabetes, particularly those using insulin who develop difficult-to-control glucose levels, should contact their physician at first symptoms of the flu.
- Those who are immunocompromised should alert their physician of their flu symptoms.
- Those experiencing an increasing shortness of breath, such as people who have chronic asthma or heart failure, should go to an emergency room for treatment.
Symptoms of a cold are often similar to the flu. Watch this video to help alert you to the differences in symptoms.
If you suspect you have a cold, you may be able to treat with fluids and rest. Call your physician if your symptoms don’t subside.