Guest Column: Tips for fighting the flu this season

Published 9:02 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guest Column by Michael Ulrich

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It is common for flu season to peak in the months of February or March, which may explain why it often feels like the flu season drags on and why many people continue to catch and spread the influenza virus. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can help to reduce the spread of the flu virus or provide needed comfort to lessen the symptoms for those affected. Here are some things to consider as you navigate this year’s flu season.

Michael Ulrich

Common flu symptoms

Typically, patients present with one or more of these symptoms:

• High fever

Muscle pains and/or chills

• Headache

Nasal drainage and nasal congestion

• Cough

• Fatigue

• Nausea and vomiting

At-risk groups for flu

For most people, having the flu can be a miserable experience. However, there are certain populations at higher risk for developing the flu and suffering adverse effects, including:

Children age 2 and younger

Adults age 65 and older

Immunosuppressed individuals

Women who are pregnant

Individuals living in long-term care facilities

Serious issues related to influenza

It’s important to monitor anyone with the flu. For those who are young and healthy, seasonal influenza isn’t as serious. Typically, the flu goes away in a week or two with no lasting effects. However, high-risk children and adults with a chronic illness, such as asthma, lung disease, heart disease and diabetes, may develop these complications:

• Pneumonia

• Bronchitis

• Asthma flare-ups

• Heart problems

• Ear infections

Reach out to your health care provider if you feel any of above effects may be an issue.

Treatment options for the flu

If you end up getting the flu, stay at home while the virus runs its course. 

Some of the things I tell patients to try while they recover at home include:

Acetaminophen or ibuprofen

• Plenty of rest

• Lots of fluids

• Over the counter cough suppressant and throat lozenges

Additionally, in some situations, antiviral treatment can be utilized by your health care provider. However, it’s best to start this early in the course of your influenza illness and is commonly reserved for those with a higher risk for complications.

Control the spread of infection

Believe it or not, helping control the spread of the flu virus is something we all play a part in. Here are a few of the things you can do to help:

Get immunized. It’s never too late to get your flu shot.

Make sure to properly wash your hands with soap and water.

Cover your cough.

Stay home when you’re sick.

Where to seek care

Emergency departments and Urgent Care clinics are continuing to see high volumes of patients presenting with flu symptoms. If you need to seek care consider alternate care options like:

• Nurse line is a convenient way to access around-the-clock advice from our team of expert and caring registered nurses. When you’re having symptoms and you’re not sure where to be seen, call us at 507-373-2384.

• Express Care, located inside Hy-Vee, is a walk-in clinic providing treatment for minor medical conditions. Appointments can also be made online through Patient Online Services.

• Express Care Online offers quick, convenient care for 14 common conditions, including influenza. Express Care Online can be accessed through Patient Online Services.

Michael Ulrich is a family medicine provider at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin.