This is a tough flu season so far this year.

For the past three weeks, 49 states have reported widespread flu activity at the same time. While the Centers for Disease Control believes flu activity may have peaked in some parts of the country, it’s not over yet. Flu activity has been elevated for nine consecutive weeks, which means we’re only halfway through the full season. That’s right, halfway.

You are important to us, so we asked Mark Schmeltz, DO, for some information and advice if you find yourself sick with the flu in the weeks ahead.

Please share this Q&A with family and friends — especially the fact that Beacon Connected Care provides a convenient and prompt way to receive medical advice and treatment for flu-like illness anytime of the day or night from the convenience of your home! You should download the Beacon Connected Care app for your iOS or Android mobile device, or visit the Beacon Connected Care website.

And if anyone you know still hasn’t gotten their flu shot, the CDC still recommends to get one because the vaccination can still provide some benefit.

  • What is the difference between cold and flu?  Influenza is a virus with several subtypes similar to other cold viruses that produces much more robust symptoms.
  • Why is this flu season so bad this year?  According to the CDC, so far this season, influenza A, H3N2, has been the most common form of influenza. These viruses are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and older. When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more deaths. 
  • What are common flu symptoms?
    — Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
    — Cough
    — Sore throat
    — Runny or stuffy nose
    — Muscle or body aches
    — Headaches
    — Fatigue (tiredness)
    — Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
    * It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever
  • When is someone contagious? Although people with the flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins,  some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
  • How long does flu usually last? Symptoms usually appear from one to four days after exposure to the virus, and they last five to seven days or longer if severe.
  • What is the best treatment for flu?  The best treatment for influenza is prevention!  Get your flu shot.  If you have mild symptoms supportive therapy with rest, fluids and anti-fever medications is helpful for symptomatic relief.  If you have underlying medical conditions and/or have severe flu symptoms antiviral medication can be helpful in decreasing the severity and duration of the illness.
  • When should you see a doctor?  For young children, those over age 65, those that have complicating medical conditions or severe symptoms, contacting your doctor within the first 2 days of illness is important to get full benefit from antiviral flu medications.
  • Why is telemedicine a good option if you’re sick?  Telemedicine urgent care services like Beacon Connected Care provide a convenient and prompt way to receive medical advice and treatment for flu-like illness.  For patient’s that do not have a primary care physician or are unable to obtain timely care with their physician, for instance after hours, telemedicine physicians can begin treatment for influenza based on history and symptoms alone.  
  • What should you NOT do if you have the flu? Do not ignore the warning signs of severe illness. Seek in-person emergency care for the following:
    — In children

    — Fast breathing or trouble breathing
    — Bluish skin color
    — Not drinking enough fluids— Not waking up or not interacting
    — Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
    — Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
    — Fever with a rash
  • In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
    — Being unable to eat
    — Has trouble breathing

    — Has no tears when crying
    — Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
    — In adults
    — Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    — Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
    — Sudden dizziness
    — Confusion
    — Severe or persistent vomiting
    — Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Other helpful things to prevent the spread of flu:
    — Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
    — While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
    — If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
    — Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
    — Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
     — Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

    — Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

References: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/t0112-widespread-flu-activity.html
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm