Timothy P. Wilson, MD
Flu symptoms can vary widely. Some people describe their symptoms as a cold, while others feel like they have been hit by a truck. Symptoms can include fever and chills, headache and body aches, cough, sore throat and nasal congestion. While the onset of cold symptoms are generally felt gradually, influenza symptoms are more abrupt. This year’s predominant flu strain, H3N2, is a particularly virulent strain. Currently, the CDC reports widespread activity in most states.
While the flu for most people is a few days of general unpleasantness, it can be much more serious for certain populations. The flu can affect children, older people above age 65, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, the most. The flu can lead to secondary infections such as ear infections, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, worsening of chronic medical conditions and even death.
What is the best treatment for the flu? PREVENTION! While this year’s statistics for the flu vaccine’s effectiveness have been a moving target, it’s still the most important factor in flu prevention, since the flu is spread via droplets when an ill person sneezes, coughs or talks.
So, what do you do when you come into contact with someone with the flu? Run like Usain Bolt! Also, avoid sick people if possible, wash your hands frequently and never touch your hands to your face. If you are ill, be diligent about covering your cough or sneeze, wash your hands frequently, and stay away from others as you can be contagious for up to a week. If you do become ill with what you think is the flu, Tamiflu needs to be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms for it to be effective. Follow up with your doctor in a few days if your symptoms don’t improve or worsen, as this can be a sign of complications.