It’s that time of year again. Your body aches, your throat hurts, the thermometer says you have a fever, and you can’t stop coughing. That’s right, it’s flu season. Influenza is an infection caused by a virus, and while everyone knows it’s no fun being sick, the flu doesn’t have to be the end ofthe world. Know your symptoms, get a proper diagnosis, and seek treatment – or better yet, get vaccinated.
Know Your Symptoms
Your body will tell you when you have the flu, so listen to it. If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms, it’s possible you may have the flu:
- Body aches
- Dry cough
- Sore or dry throat
- Loss of appetite
These symptoms tend to be at their worst for the first three or four days, although it may take a week or two to completely rid yourself of the flu.
Don’t Delay – Get Diagnosed and Treated
If you are feeling any symptoms of the flu, you should seek a diagnosis from your physician to be certain. Your doctor will give you an exam, which may include a blood test or a sample of fluid from your nose or throat, to nail down what type of flu virus you might have.
Once you have your diagnosis, you can work on a treatment plan. Many people treat their flu symptoms at home with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications to lower a fever. Hospitalization may be necessary for more severe cases. If you think you have the flu, get to your doctor as soon as possible. If you see your doctor within two days of initial onset, you may be able to get started on medication that will ease your symptoms.
Prevention is Key to a Healthy You
Why risk getting the flu when there are preventive measures in place? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone at least six months old get a flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated for the flu each year can reduce your chances of getting the virus.
Some people are at a higher risk of getting the flu than others. At especially high risk are young children, adults age 50 and older, individuals with long-term health problems or immune disorders, and pregnant women. Those who work in health care or live with a person at high risk for the flu should get vaccinated to lower their chances of catching it.
Take Charge of Your Health
If you do come down with the flu, remember to practice proper home care so your illness doesn’t progress into something more dangerous. Be sure to see your doctor as soon as you feel flu symptoms coming on. Most of all, get vaccinated whenever it becomes available. Additional information is available from the Healthwise Knowledgebase at capitalhealth.com.
Stephen LaRosa is a Family Medicine physician at Capital Health Plan.