A steaming bowl of chicken soup may make you feel better when you have a common cold, but it may not do the trick when you get influenza - often called “the flu”. We took a few minutes to sit down with Dr. Michael Routledge, Medical Officer of Health for Southern Health-Santé Sud, who shared some very good advice about the flu and how to deal with it...
How can I prevent the flu?
Get a flu vaccination. A flu shot is recommended for everybody because it helps prevent you from getting the flu, and from transmitting it to others. In particular, anybody at high risk of complications, including very young children, older adults, people with a chronic health condition and pregnant women, should get a flu shot.
All health care workers should also get vaccinated to keep themselves well during the flu season and avoid transmitting the flu to their patients.
Making sure you stay healthy by eating right, staying physically active, and not smoking is also a good way to help prevent the flu and help you recover faster if you do get it.
How do I know when I have the flu?
The flu generally begins with a sore throat and develops into fever and muscle aches. A cold more often has symptoms like congestion and runny nose. You’ll also feel a lot sicker with the flu than you do with a cold.
What should I do when I get sick with the flu?
Stay home, get lots of rest, take Tylenol (acetaminophen) to treat the fever, and drink plenty of fluids. Although you can take over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, they won’t cure the infection, and sometimes they can cause harm.
Try to keep your spirits up – remember for most people you’ll be feeling better in a day or two!
When should I go to see my doctor?
In general, most people with the flu are sick for a couple of days and then begin to feel better. However, if you are worried for any reason, for example your symptoms are beyond what you are used to, or are worsening instead of getting better after a few days: go to see your doctor.
You should err on the side of seeing your doctor sooner if you are in a high risk category for complications from the flu.
Young children with the flu may throw up a lot, putting them at risk also of dehydration. If you have a child who is vomiting or unable to keep fluids down, they should see a doctor right away.
Are there any medications for the flu?
There are antiviral medications against the flu that are most effective when prescribed early on in the illness, and for people at high risk of experiencing complications from the flu. Most healthy people will recover from the flu without needing antivirals.
How long should I stay home when I have the flu?
Everyone will respond to the flu differently, but the general rule of thumb is go back to work or school when you feel better enough to do so.
You are generally infectious with the flu a day before you get symptoms and four to five days afterwards. During this period, you should take precautions to limit transmission, such as washing your hands often with soap and water or using hand sanitizer and coughing or sneezing into your forearm.
For additional information on influenza, please:
• visit Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living
• talk to your doctor or public health nurse, or
• call Health Links-Info Santé at 1-888-315-9257.