The facts about the flu: What you need to know

Posted by Mike Karns on Feb 08, 2018

Flu season is never a fun time of year, but this year has been one of the worst in more than a decade. Several deaths have even been reported in our area. Many people are scared and confused. So, as a medical professional, I'd like to take a moment to dispel some of your fears with a little knowledge. Here are a few things you need to know about the flu this season.

1. Don't panic. The biggest danger from the flu is when the body responds aggressively to the virus and can potentially cause lung damage. However, this is very rare. Another danger is developing pneumonia in young children and people over 65. Anyone who falls into one of those two categories should get the flu vaccine and be vigilant for signs of the flu.

2. The flu is preventable. While the flu vaccine's effectiveness can vary from person to person, it fails 100 percent of the time if you don't get it. About 80 percent of the patients we see with the flu didn't get the flu vaccine. Many places, including the Gunter Medical Center, offer the vaccine at affordable prices.

3. The first 48 hours are crucial with the flu. In this small window, medical professionals can do something to lessen the severity and shorten the duration of the flu. When symptoms like sore throat, fever, body aches and/or coughing begins, seek medical attention immediately. A quick flu test with a nasal swab can tell if you have the flu or not.

4. Tamiflu is your friend. When medical professionals detect the flu in the first 48 hours of symptoms, we can prescribe this wonder drug to lessen the severity of your symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu by a day or two. And that is no small relief.

5. Stay home if you get it! One of the reasons flu season is so bad is that some people insist on going to work and going about their daily lives. Not only does this increase and prolong their suffering, it shares it with everyone else. You may have heard of schools and entire school districts shutting down to stop the spread of the flu. It's a lot better to shut down your life than shut down an entire school or workplace. If you are sick, just accept you are sick and quarantine yourself from the rest of the world as much as possible.

6. Wash your hands! Getting back to the subject of prevention, casual contact is one of the ways the flu spreads so quickly. So. wash your hands frequently whether you are sick or not. Good handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of any germs. Remember, no one else wants what you may be carrying.

A little knowledge this flu season is one of our best tools to promote public health. Flu season typically lasts from October to March, but has been known to run as late as May. With a little knowledge and some intelligent action, we'll make it through this historic flu season.