Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. Click here to see our calendar of dates for Flu Shot Clinics scheduled through November 28, at Cheshire Medical Center.
There are some basics you should know if you or a loved one do become sick with the flu. Below are a few tips from a free resource provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Know the symptoms of flu. People who have the flu often have some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
5 steps to take if you get the flu:
- Stay at home and rest.
- Avoid close contact with well people in your house so you won’t make them sick.
- Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent fluid loss (dehydration).
- Treat fever and cough with medicines you can buy at the store.
- If you get very sick or are pregnant or have a medical condition that puts you at higher risk of flu complications (like asthma…), call your doctor. You might need antiviral medicine to treat flu.
How long should people with the flu stay at home? People with flu-like illness should stay at home except to get medical care or other necessities. Until at least 24 hours after they are free of a fever without having taken any medicines that lower fever. Examples of medicines that lower fever include acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Dealing with dehydration. While anyone can become dehydrated, infants, children, and older adults are at greatest risk of getting dehydrated. Also, pregnant women will want to make sure they are getting enough fluids. Call your doctor for advice right away if you or your child has any of these symptoms of dehydration.
Signs of dehydration in infants and toddlers:
- Sunken soft spot on top of your infant’s head
- Diarrhea or vomiting in infants 2 months or younger
- The baby seems much less active or more irritable than normal
- Fewer tears when crying or not making tears
Signs of dehydration in children and adults:
- Not making tears
- Less than normal amount of urine. In babies you may see fewer wet diapers or diapers that weigh less than normal
- Skin that is dry and takes long to go back to position when pinched
- Dry mouth or dry eyes
- Fast-beating heart
- Blood in the stool or blood in vomit
- The child has had a fever for 12 or more hours and also is not able to drink fluids, is throwing up or having diarrhea
- The child may be cranky or irritable, hard to wake up, have little energy, appear “rag doll weak”
Dealing with fever. Bringing down a fever will make the person feel better and help patients rest. NOTE: Any child younger than 3 months who has a fever should see a doctor.
Treating a fever without medicine
- Put a cool, damp washcloth on their forehead.
- Wash their arms and body with a cool cloth.
- Give the person a slightly warm bath.
Treating a high fever with medicine
- Look for the ingredients “acetaminophen” or “ibuprofen” on labels.
- These medicines may take 30 to 45 minutes to start working. They may not bring fevers down to normal temperature.
When a fever causes a seizure. A seizure makes you have jerky spasms and can also make you pass out. In rare cases, a fever can bring on a seizure, called a “febrile seizure.” Seizures brought on by fever are more common in young children. Call the doctor or get medical help for seizures.
For more information, go to cdc.gov/flu or, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) services in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day.