Flu season has begun, which means that local doctors’ offices, urgent care centers and hospitals may soon be filled with coughing, achy, sneezing, unhappy people. More than 21,000 cases of flu were reported in San Diego County in 2017, triple the number of the previous year.
The flu is serious business, but it can be prevented or minimized. Not all flu-like symptoms mean you have the flu, but treatment of these symptoms is similar for both illnesses. Here’s what you need to know to help keep yourself and those around you healthy.
How to prevent the flu
Now is the time to get the flu vaccine, which is the best way to protect yourself and others. Flu vaccines are available at your doctor’s office and at many local pharmacies. Sharp Rees-Stealy patients can visit one of six Sharp Rees-Stealy flu clinics around the county, or their primary care doctor, beginning October 3. Sharp Community Medical Group patients can visit one of these vaccine locations.
Wash your hands frequently.
Proper hand-washing remains one of the most effective illness prevention techniques. Use soap and water, and wash for at least 20 seconds before eating, after using the restroom and after coming in contact with multiuse surfaces. Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands, and to wipe down common items such as phones and work surfaces with antibacterial wipes or spray.
Stay away from people who are sick.
Encourage sick loved ones not to share their germs. Also, if you’re not feeling well, limit contact with those who are in a high-risk group, including the very young, pregnant women, older adults and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or cancer.
What to do if you think you might have the flu
If you have a fever, cough, and severe aches and pains, stay home from work or school. Your friends and colleagues will thank you. Rest and fluids at home are the best way to get better. Manage your fever and pain with acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Warm fluids and steam can help keep you hydrated and soothe irritated nasal passages. Stay home until you have been fever-free for 24 hours.
Avoid the urgent care or ER, unless . . .
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who get the flu will not need medical care or antiviral drugs. However, if your fever lasts more than 10 days, or if you experience worsening pain, vomiting or other serious symptoms, you should contact your doctor’s office.
If you or a loved one is experiencing flu-like symptoms and falls into any of the following categories, call your doctor immediately:
- Children 2 years old or younger
- Adults 65 years old or older
- Pregnant women
- Blood or metabolic disorders (including diabetes)
- Heart, liver, kidney or lung conditions
- Suppressed immune systems
If you are visiting someone in the hospital, remember to wash your hands before and after the visit; after using the restroom; and after coughing or sneezing. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and throw away used tissues in the trash.
For more information about preventing the flu, visit sharp.com/flu.
For the news media: To talk with a Sharp doctor about the flu for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.
This story was updated in September 2018.