Flu FAQ

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Flu season is upon us and Ohio is one of 46 states experiencing widespread flu activity. So, what exactly do you need to know? We’ve broken down all of the important information you should keep in mind as the flu continues to spread.

What are flu symptoms? What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The flu is a contagious viral respiratory illness. Symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

While some of the symptoms of a common cold are the same as the flu, they are very different illnesses. Symptoms of colds typically come on gradually, while flu symptoms start abruptly. Fevers are also uncommon with colds, while most people experiencing influenza will have a fever for 3-4 days.

What are complications of influenza? Who is at risk?

Complications of influenza range from mild, like ear infections and sinus infections, to severe, like pneumonia. Influenza can also worsen chronic conditions like asthma.

Rare, but life threatening, complications can include things like inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues.

While anyone who gets influenza can have complications, those at highest risk include:

  • People ages 65+
  • Anyone with a chronic illness or medical condition
  • Those with a weakened immune system
  • Pregnant women
  • Children under age 5

What should I do if I think I have the flu?

  • You should stay home unless you are seeking medical care
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of clear fluids
  • Get plenty of rest

When should I seek medical care for flu?

If symptoms are severe or you have a chronic medical condition or are pregnant, you should seek medical care. Children under age five, who are at a higher risk for developing complications, should be seen by their provider if they are experiencing flu symptoms. If you are unsure whether you or your child should seek medical care, contact your provider’s office.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, children and adults experiencing the following emergency warning signs should seek immediate medical care.

In children, emergency warning signs include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • 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

In adults, emergency warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

How can I prevent the flu?

The best way to prevent influenza is to receive a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over age 6 months of age. It’s not too late to get one for this flu season – if you have not received a vaccination and would like to, contact your provider’s office.

According to the CDC, other important measures to prevent the spread of the flu are:

  • Washing your hands
  • Staying home if you are sick
  • Covering your cough and sneeze
  • Avoiding close contact with those who are sick
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Practicing good health habits, like eating a balanced diet, staying physically active, getting enough sleep and managing stress levels can also help you avoid the flu and other illness.

What do Mercer Health’s visitor restrictions mean?

In order to protect our patients and staff, Mercer Health is currently restricting all visitors under age 14, including siblings visiting the Childbirth Center. We are also asking anyone over the age of 14 to please avoid visiting if they are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms.

References: Center of Disease Control and Prevention and Ohio Department of Health

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