Every year, patients hear the warnings to get a flu shot as well as news of the flu's spread. Many people do not take those warnings seriously. That could be a mistake, according to Dr. Takashi Hirata of Novant Health Hillsdale Medical Associates.
"Every year, hundreds of thousands of people still die from the flu," Dr. Hirata said, emphasizing it is not only weak or chronically ill people who can be seriously affected. "How sick you can get from the flu is very unpredictable. It can put a completely healthy child in the hospital, or can even be fatal."
Dr. Hirata notes that while anyone is a potential flu victim, very young children or older adults are most at risk. "Infants and children who cannot be vaccinated need adults around them to be vaccinated to provide herd immunity, " Dr. Hirata suggested. "Pregnant woman are also at high risk of complications that could affect the developing fetus."
Patients often wonder if their sickness is the flu or only a common cold. "The flu generally comes with more inflammatory symptoms including fever, body aches, chills and headaches along with the congestion, cough and sore throat typical of a cold," Dr. Hirata said. "Flu can also lead to other complications including pneumonia or dehydration. This is why it's important to see a doctor quickly for a diagnosis. Flu treatment is most effective if it's started within 48 hours of the onset of the illness."
Treatments including rest, hydration, ibuprofen to help with aches and pains, and anti-viral medications to reduce the duration of symptoms and risk of complications.
While treatment is available, Dr. Hirata is in agreement with most experts who say prevention is even better. "It's never too late to get the flu shot," he said. "Flu season generally runs until March or April. Good hand hygiene is also key. It may not save your live, but it could save an infant sitting next to you."