The flu is already starting to show up in emergency rooms and hospitals throughout Georgia. Now is the time to take preventative actions, like getting a flu shot, to protect yourself.
The Influenza virus, commonly called ‘the flu,’ can be a dangerous illness causing complications that may require hospitalization and even can cause death, but it is preventable and treatable.
Everyone six months of age and older should get vaccinated by the end of October if possible.
“It is best to get vaccinated before the peak of flu season, as it takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to fully respond and for you to be protected,” said Piedmont Fayette’s Chief Medical Officer Angela Swayne, M.D.
Children younger than six months old are at a high risk of serious flu complications but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from the flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than six months of age, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect him or her from the flu. Also, studies have shown that flu vaccination of the mother during pregnancy can protect the baby after birth from flu infection for the first several months.
“By vaccinating yourself, you will protect those who can’t get vaccinated,” said Dr. Swayne. “The more people who have immunity stops or slows the spread of infection and helps decrease the chance of someone who is not immune from coming in contact with an infectious person.”
There are actions you can take every day to protect yourself and others from getting the flu. If you are sick, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading illness to others. Also, stay away from those who are sick. In addition, washing your hands reduces the spread of germs.
The signs and symptoms of flu last for two to five days. Signs of flu include; sudden onset of fever, headaches, muscle aches, dry cough, sore throat, and nasal discharge. Children can also experience gastrointestinal issues (stomach pains, diarrhea), and higher fever. The flu season starts in September and continues until April. If you have the flu, there is medicine that you may take within two days to decrease the duration of your signs and symptoms. It is important that if you have the flu, you act quickly.
“There are emergency warning signs related to the flu that require urgent medical attention,” said Dr. Swayne. According to the CDC, the following are signs people should be aware of and for which they should seek medical attention for:
- high or prolonged fever
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- chest pain or pressure
- bluish skin color
- confusion or fainting
- severe or persistent vomiting
For a child, additional signs may include: not drinking enough fluids, changes in mental status (i.e., not waking up, not interacting, extreme irritability, or seizures), worsening of underlying chronic conditions (for example, diabetes).
If your doctor is not available and you need to visit the Emergency Department, here are helpful tips that may help expedite the Emergency Department process:
- Know your medical history (recent illnesses, symptoms and allergies).
- Know what medications you take and the respective dosages of each.
- Be precise and direct when talking to the staff and doctor about the reason you are in need of medical assistance.
- Ask questions – write them down, if necessary – to remember all that you want to ask the doctor.
- Again, if possible, communicate with your family doctor before going to the Emergency Department.
“You may still get the flu even if you get the flu shot, but the vaccine will provide some immunity and make the illness less severe,” said Dr. Swayne. “Getting vaccinated at any point during flu season can still be beneficial. The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting the flu shot as long as influenza viruses are circulating, which can be into January or even later.”
Flu shots are available at Piedmont QuickCare facilities and appointments at all locations can be scheduled on-line.
For more ways to stay healthy, visit piedmont.org.