BE INFORMED ABOUT THE FLU
Avoiding the flu
Following some simple tips can help prevent contracting the flu:
- Avoid close interaction with others, especially those who may already be sick
- Wash hands often with soap and water
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; dispose of tissue and wash hands afterward
- Get plenty of rest, exercise, eat healthy, consume adequate amounts of fluids and manage stress
- Be aware if you are more vulnerable to the flu: This includes young children, pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions and those aged 65 years or older
- Symptoms of the flu
People with the onset of the flu may feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fever and/or chills (not everyone with the flu will have a fever)
- Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (usually in children)
- Best treatment options
These basic steps can help in the recuperating process:
- Getting adequate rest
- Drink plenty of clear fluids (water, broth, sports drinks, etc.) to avoid dehydration
- Calm chills by staying under warm blankets
- Alleviate discomfort of fevers by placing cool, damp cloths on the forehead, arms and legs
- Antiviral medications can help to stave off, shorten and weaken the flu
Prescribed by physician or health care provider
- Take as soon as you suspect you may be ill — these work best within the first two days of getting sick
- Medications available over the counter may help relieve symptoms of the flu:
Decongestants can help with stuffiness and sinuses
- Cough medicine, cough drops and throat lozenges may temporarily relieve sore throat and coughing
- Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can aid in aches, pains and fevers
- Be sure to consult a physician or pharmacist before mixing medications, as some ingredients may be hazardous when combined.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control, flu.gov, Riverside Pharmacy
January and February are peak months for the spread of flu, according to flu.gov, and Gainesville has not been spared this winter.
Scottie Barton, pharmacist and owner of Riverside Pharmacy in Gainesville, said he has seen many people purchasing anti-viral drugs, such as Tamiflu, which are prescribed by physicians and designed to prevent or treat flu viruses.
“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen a real increase. I would say probably moreso than what we saw this time last year. So yeah, we’re seeing a good bit of flu,” he said, adding that one of his employees had been out with it last week.
Barton said early detection is the primary factor to keeping the flu at bay and is crucial to the effectiveness of antiviral medications.
“With the flu, the main thing is early treatment, because that’s what the Tamiflu (and other anti-virals) was designed to do,” he said.
“If you can catch it within the first 24 hours, you know, that medication is effective and will shorten the length of it (the flu). But if you let it go much past that, it’s not really that effective, so early diagnosis is key on it,” Barton added.
Although the flu may seem unavoidable, some tips can strengthen your resistance to it. Keeping away from others, especially those known to be sick, is one of the most important things you can do. Try to maintain some distance and avoid close interactions.
Healthy habits, including eating well, drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of rest and exercise can also help to keep the flu away.
Because the flu is believed to be spread through respiratory droplets, mainly those projected outward when coughing or sneezing, it is especially important to cover your mouth and nose.
Washing your hands with soap and water, especially after touching your eyes, nose and mouth, is crucial.
Additionally, knowing your vulnerability to contracting the flu is vital. Young children, pregnant women, individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, and those aged 65 years or older are especially susceptible.
“Of course the elderly, anybody with a weakened immune system, you definitely need to watch them. Younger children, too,” Barton said.
Symptoms include a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and fever and/or chills, though not everyone with the flu will have a fever, nor will everyone experience all symptoms.
Diarrhea and vomiting can sometimes occur, though these symptoms are more commonly found in young children.
Once you have the flu, many elements of recovering can be done without medication. Getting an adequate amount of rest and staying home is critical.
Staying hydrated with plenty of clear fluids, such as water, broth and sports drinks, is also important. Chills can be calmed by staying under warm blankets, while fevers may be alleviated by placing cool cloths on the forehead, arms and legs.
In addition to anti-viral medicines, some over-the-counter medications can also provide some relief.
“Typically, do Tylenol and Motrin for the fever and then you’ve got your cold and flu medications that you can prescribe over the counter that are going to help with the symptoms,” Barton said.
Decongestants may help with stuffiness and sinuses, while cough medicine, cough drops and throat lozenges can temporarily relieve sore throat and coughing fits. Basic pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can be taken for aches, pains and fevers.