The Flu. It’s dreaded, avoided, and much talked about during the cold months. Right now it has reached epidemic proportions and is widespread in every state in the USA. This year’s strain is particularly intense, and has a higher than average mortality rate.
I have a confession. I should have been hospitalized during my recent bout with the flu. My fever was very high. It reached 103.7 and I couldn’t walk, and felt incoherent. My husband wanted to take me to the hospital, but I refused to go. Although I ended up being okay, this was a stupid decision on my part. It could have even been a deadly decision if my fever hadn’t come down.
I told my husband the plan for who to contact if I got worse, or if I passed out. I knew that going to the ER might be my only option, but I didn’t want to go.
I had a lot of reasons. I didn’t want to expose my toddler to even more sick people in the ER. My son was already sick, and if he got worse I wanted to be there to make sure he went to the hospital if needed. We had houseguests (who were also sick) and I felt like I needed to be the one to take care of everyone. It was scary, and I said a prayer asking God not to let me die that night. I want to see my son grow, and I didn’t want to leave my husband alone.
Even though I ended up being okay, and I am on the road back to recovery, I made a stupid decision. I should have gone to the hospital.
What are the signs that you should go to the hospital for the flu:
1. For adults if your fever is 103 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. For children under 3 months if fever is 100.4 F or higher. For children over 3 months if fever is 104 F or higher. Contact doctor if fever will not go down, persists, or does not respond to medicine.
2. If you can’t catch your breath or breathing is painful.
3. If you can’t think clearly and your speech is slurred.
4. If you are too weak to stand.
5. If you have chest pain or severe abdominal pain.
6. If you become dehydrated.
7. If you have severe headache/neck stiffness.
8. If you feel so sick that you feel like something is wrong, and you need help. Listen to your instincts.
Treating the flu:
If you have the flu the best thing you can do is stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.
Call your doctor for an anti-viral medicine to shorten the length of the flu. Anti-virals are effective if started within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
Stay home. The flu is highly contagious, and it can be deadly. Try not to spread the germs. You should be fever free for at least 24 hours before venturing out, but you may still be contagious if you are still coughing. The flu is generally contagious for about one week from the onset of symptoms.
About the Flu Shot:
My husband and my son got the flu shot this year. I did not. They both had very mild flu symptoms, more along the lines of a bad cold with a mild fever. This was one of the worst cases of the flu and worst fevers I have ever had in my life.
The flu shot can help prevent the flu, but even if you are exposed to a mutated strain that the shot doesn’t protect against, it can reduce your symptoms.
I work as an Occupational Therapist with the geriatric population. I normally get the flu shot every year, because they are an at risk population. The very old, very young and those with compromised immunity are much more likely to die from the flu.
Misconceptions and Flu Facts:
1. The flu is NOT a stomach bug. What most people call the “stomach flu” is actually norovirus or gastroenteritis. Typically influenza doesn’t include vomiting. Children are more likely to vomit when they have the flu than adults. Some patients will experience diarrhea and vomiting, but this is a less common symptom.
2. The flu is a respiratory illness. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, sore throat, congestion, headache, fever and body aches.
3.The flu is airborn, and spread through droplets. That means it can be spread through coughing or sneezing, skin to skin contact, saliva, or touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
4. The flu is a big deal. Many people shrug it off as “just the flu” but it is one of the most deadly illnesses every year. On average about 36,000 flu deaths occur in the US each year, and that number increases to between 250,000-500,000 worldwide. The worst known flu year was the epidemic of 1918, which killed between 50 million and 100 million people. It is important not only to care for yourself, but also to avoid spreading the flu. The very old and very young are much more likely to die from the flu.