Do you have a fever, chills, a cough, and body aches? You may have influenza. It’s tempting to stay home and hope you get better, but that’s not the best decision. Influenza is a virus that assails your respiratory function, including your nose, throat, and lungs. It’s a serious illness and can even lead to death if untreated or if treatment is delayed. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized each year with influenza, and it can result in thousands of deaths.
Getting to the doctor early is important. Effective treatment of the flu is contingent on an early and accurate diagnosis. Of course, the best way to prevent flu or at least minimize its severity is to be vaccinated. The CDC recommends an annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older.
Flu viruses are carried through the air and remain on objects. So if you touch something that someone with the flu has touched--a doorknob or countertop, you may get sick too. If a loved one is coughing or sneezing in the same room, if the virus lands on you, you may get the flu.
Fever, chills, a headache, a cough, congestion, and body aches often signal the flu. Children are more likely to experience vomiting and diarrhea in addition to other symptoms.
Testing for the flu is easy: your primary care provider simply swabs the inside of your nose or the back of your throat. Depending on your symptoms, your provider may administer a test called the “rapid molecular assay” that identifies the virus’ genetic makeup and whether it’s the flu or not. You get the results right in the office in just 15-20 minutes. On the other hand, your provider might decide to send your swab to a lab for a different test, and then you’ll get the results within 24 hours.
Influenza testing isn’t a perfect science, however. There are many forms of the virus, making testing imperfect. Rapid tests that your doctor performs in the office are a bit better at diagnosing flu in children than in adults. Some flu tests can deliver a false negative result--you really do have the flu but the test isn’t able to detect it. Based on your symptoms, your primary care provider may tell you that you have the flu without conducting a test or reach that conclusion even if the test is negative.
Early treatment is key. Your primary care provider at Family Medicine and Acute Care of Sandhills may prescribe antiviral medication that can lessen the severity of your symptoms. This medication is especially important for high-risk patients, including children, elderly adults, and those with chronic conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, or diabetes. Tamiflu is a common antiviral medication that works for patients of all ages; others are also available.
To mitigate symptoms like fever or nasal congestion, you can also take over-the-counter medication. Home remedies that reduce nasal congestion include using saline nasal spray and running a humidifier.
Staying hydrated and getting enough sleep is paramount when you have the flu. Stay home and take care of yourself.
If you think you have the flu, don’t wait to contact Family Medicine and Acute Care of Sandhills. Call or book an appointment online right away. Your primary care provider provides expert diagnosis and treatment so that you can recover as quickly as possible and get back to your healthy self.