January 14, 2013

Marshall Medical Center Emergency Department offers advice on keeping the flu at bay

LEWISBURG, Tenn. – Staying at home when you are sick is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of this year’s aggressive national flu outbreak. That advice comes from the nation’s emergency physicians for those who have flu-like symptoms. 

In recent days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that at least 40 states are currently dealing with a moderate to serious flu outbreak. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), emergency departments throughout the country are seeing significantly higher numbers of patients with flu symptoms compared to this time in past years.

“Even with flu-like symptoms, many people still try to go to work, school or other activities,” said Dr. Andrew Sama, president of ACEP. “This is only making a bad situation worse, spreading the virus and getting more people sick. Not to mention, you are putting yourself at greater risk of worsening your current health situation such as developing pneumonia.” 

According to Dr. Thomas Mitchell, emergency department medical director at Marshall Medical Center (MMC), those at highest risk of flu include the elderly, pregnant women and people with special medical needs. “Flu symptoms typically include fever, sore throat, runny nose and upper respiratory symptoms, headache, fatigue, and muscle or body aches,” said Dr. Mitchell.

To help speed your recovery from the flu, ACEP physicians advise that you drink plenty of liquids, get rest and if diagnosed early, take antiviral medication. Individuals should seek emergency care if they experience any of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with fever and increased cough  

Additional signs of immediate concern in children include fast breathing, bluish skin color, fever with a rash, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or interacting and being so irritable that the child does not want to be held. In addition to all of the above symptoms, an infant should get emergency care if they are irritable, cannot be consoled, are unable to eat or drink, have trouble eating or drinking, have trouble breathing, produce no tears when crying, have significantly fewer wet diapers than normal or have a persistent fever.

It is not too late to get the flu vaccine if you have not done so already. Routine preventative measures like washing your hands regularly, wiping down work stations and covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough can help prevent the spread of the flu virus. “It is important for everyone to do their part to help push the flu back,” said Dr. Mitchell. “Little things can make a big difference to keep you and those around you healthy.”