You’ve got the flu. Now what?
While the flu vaccine significantly decreases your chances of catching the virus (as well as those around you – the CDC estimates that the vaccine prevents 40-60% of the general population from getting sick) it is still possible to get the flu. Symptoms of influenza can last for 1-2 weeks and consist of a high fever, extreme body aches, headache, fatigue, vomiting and irritable bowels, and severe cold symptoms. As a virus (and not a bacterial infection), the flu cannot be treated with antibiotics – barring the development of a developing lung infection.
If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, it is important that you remain home so as not to spread the virus. You may be inclined to make an appointment with your doctor, but visiting your primary care physician is recommended only if your coughing and/or diarrhea or vomiting is severe, in which case medication may be prescribed. In the meantime, all you can do is wait it out; here are a few tips for making it through a nasty viral infection:
- Take Tylenol and Advil/Motrin to help alleviate symptoms associated with fever, headache, and body ache. Unless you have health complications that limit your use of these over the counter medications, take the maximum dose every 6-8 hours. If you are taking additional flu remedies, be sure you are not doubling down on Tylenol (Acetaminophen), as these are often contained in flu medicines. Read labels carefully.
- Take hot showers or use vapor humidifiers to alleviate symptoms of congestion. Hot tea with lemon and honey may also help.
- Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water or tea will help to clear your sinuses as well as replenish your body in the instance of diarrhea or vomiting.
- Wash your hands often. The flu virus can be lethal for those who are most vulnerable – young children, the elderly, and pregnant women. Take care not to spread the virus and have a friend or family member pick up your necessary medicinal and grocery items.
- When to visit the Emergency Room: You should only visit the ER if you are experiencing shortness of breath, cannot keep fluids down for 24 hours, are experiencing a rapid heart rate or low blood pressure, or have extreme diarrhea that does not improve and is accompanied by dizzy spells.
If you suspect you may need an antiviral medication, call your physician for advice. You can learn more about antiviral drugs and treating the flu by visiting the CDC’s website.
Get better soon!
Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, that provides free medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist. The Free Clinic serves uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.