Tips to stay healthy this flu season
With cold and flu season upon us and considering the closure of Physicians Regional Medical Center, we encourage you to follow some basic precautions to reduce the spread of disease and avoid unnecessarily overburdening hospital ERs.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Most people with the flu do not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and in most cases, those with flu symptoms should stay home and avoid contact with others. However, if someone in a high-risk group has symptoms of the flu or if someone is greatly concerned about the illness, he or she should first contact a medical provider or walk-in clinic before visiting the hospital.
Young children, people aged 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions, including asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease and diabetes, are considered high risk. A comprehensive list of high-risk groups is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.
Influenza guidelines include:
- It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. Vaccines are still available in the community and at all KCHD locations. Call 865-215-5070 to schedule an appointment.
- Wash your hands thoroughly (20 seconds with soap and water) and often to help lower your risk of getting the flu or to keep from spreading the flu to others.
- Save the ER for emergencies. The following mild flu symptoms usually do not require treatment at an emergency room: runny nose or nasal stuffiness, low-grade fever for less than three days, mild headache, body aches, or stomach upset. Instead of visiting the emergency room, call your health care provider or seek care at a walk-in or urgent care clinic, many of which are open in the evenings and on weekends.
- Stay home and away from others, especially the elderly, children or those with chronic health conditions, if you are sick. If you must leave home, to get medical care for example, wear a facemask if you have one or be sure to cover your cough and sneeze.
- The CDC recommends those with flu symptoms stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines. Staying home includes avoiding work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings.
- Limit visits to friends and relatives in the hospital. Postpone visits to the hospital to protect patients, staff and yourself from the flu. If you must visit, check with the hospital first to see if any visitor restrictions have been established.
Patients should go to the emergency room if exhibiting any of the following warning signs of flu.
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In addition, seek medical help immediately for an infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Flu activity generally peaks between December and February, but the exact timing, severity and length of the flu season varies from year to year. More information about influenza, including the current activity, is available at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.