What to do with the flu?

November 15, 2010 | Health Advice | By: Matt Kaiser

You have the chills so bad you can’t stop shaking, your muscles ache everywhere, and you have so much snot in your nose you sound like a whining 2 year old.  Now what?

Flu Prevention

The best thing you can do to keep from getting the flu this year is to get the flu shot!  (PMC still has flu vaccine in stock, so come see us!)  In a year where the match is good between the flu strains in the vaccine and the flu strains circulating in public, the shot can prevent the flu 70-90% of the time!  Additional preventative measures include all that stuff you mom always told you, wash your hands, cover your cough, and stay away from sick people!  Also be mindful of touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as these are places where the influenza virus can get into your body.

I’m sick, is this the flu?

Symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, headaches, and body aches. While vomiting and diarrhea can also be present (more frequently in kids), influenza usually causes a prominently respiratory disease.  If vomiting and diarrhea are predominant it may be another virus causing your symptoms.  The often talked about “stomach flu” is caused by viruses and bacteria other than the flu.

Ok, I’ve got the flu, now what?

Stay home at least 24 hrs after your fever (100.4° F) is gone so you don’t share with your neighbors.  Keep drinking clear fluids to keep hydrated.  Sports drinks or soups/broths work best because they have electrolytes that help your body absorb the fluid.  Fluid in your body not only keeps you hydrated, but can help loosen up the mucous.  Get some rest.  The flu symptoms usually last 4-7 days, although the cough can linger for some time after that.

What about all those over the counter medications?

Over the counter flu medicines will not cure the flu, but they can help make your life more bearable while your immune system fights it off.  There are a few common drugs in these medicines, and depending on if you are an adult or a kid, it can be important to know what you are taking.  Analgesics like acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen can help with aches and pains. Be sure and avoid aspirin in kids and teenagers because it can cause a serious liver condition called Reye’s Syndrome.  Cough suppressants are also commonly included in over the counter medications and can help you stop coughing.  These medicines usually act on your brain to tell you to stop coughing, but if you are getting mucous up don’t take one!  Keep coughing that yellow stuff up and get it out!  Also children who are under 4 years old shouldn’t take these cough suppressants.  Expectorants such as Mucinex, or guafenisin thin the mucous so you can cough it up and get it out more easily.

Can’t the doctor give me an antibiotic?

The flu is caused by a small virus spread by respiratory water droplets.   Antibiotics don’t kill the flu since it is a virus and not a bacteria.  There is medicine, however, that is designed to stop the spread of the influenza virus once in the body, but it is not exactly a magic bullet cure.  Tamiflu or Oseltamivir is the most commonly used medicine, but it must be given within 48hrs of the onset of symptoms and it has only been shown to reduce the number of days a person has symptoms by about one day.

When should I come see the doctor?

In children:

  • High fever (above 103°F), or a fever that lasts for more than 3 days
  • Symptoms that last for more than 10 days
  • Trouble breathing, fast breathing or wheezing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Earache or drainage from the ear
  • Changes in mental state (such as not waking up, irritability or seizures)
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but return with a fever and a worse cough
  • Worsening of a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes or heart disease)
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain

In adults:

  • A high, prolonged fever (above 102°F) with fatigue and body aches
  • Symptoms that last for more than 10 days or get worse instead of better
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Fainting or feeling like you are about to faint
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Severe sinus pain in your face or forehead
  • Very swollen glands in the neck or jaw