After seeing hundreds of patients with the flu last year, Dr. John “Brian” Seymour, Emergency Department Medical Director for St. Charles Parish Hospital, highly recommends reducing your risk of contracting the virus by getting a flu shot.
For those who do find themselves sick, it’s important to know when to reach out to just stay home to rest and hydrate, when to reach out to a primary care physician or when to head to the emergency room.
Because different strains of flu circulate yearly, it’s hard to predict the impact of each year’s season. But Seymour said the season is here, having seen a few patients with it already this month.
Taking precautions to fend off the nasty bug, also known as influenza, is certainly recommendable considering the discomfort it can cause.
“The biggest thing to do to prevent contracting or transmission of flu is to get the flu vaccination, as well as washing hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer, not coughing or sneezing on others and staying away from people you know are sick,” he said. “Also, it is a misconception that the flu shot can cause the flu. Getting the flu shot is important protection for you and your entire family.”
Although the shot is recommended for everyone over the age of six months, according to Seymour it is especially important for people in specific populations. This includes children six months through four years old, adults age 50 or older and people with long-term health problems such as asthma, lung problems, heart disease, diabetes or severe obesity.
This also includes people with trouble fighting infections such as patients taking cancer treatments, those with HIV/AIDS, anyone who has had an organ transplant or is immune to suppressant drugs, women who are pregnant, people who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities or people who live with or care for people at high risk.
Seymour said a healthy person who gets the flu can typically just stay home, take Tylenol and weather out the bug.
A person can return to school or work when there is no fever for 24 hours (when not taking Tylenol). Most people are contagious for five to seven days. But there are certain segments of the population who are more susceptible to getting the flu, as well as its more painful and even life-threatening symptoms.
“If you have medical problems, I would suggest calling your primary care doctor right away, as you may be seen as early as that day or the following day,” Seymour said. He added this is a call that should made within 48 hours of having flu symptoms because a physician may choose to prescribe certain medications which can shorten these symptoms or let the flu run its course.
Flu symptoms are typically 100 to 104-degree fever, a cough, body aches, sore throat and sometimes diarrhea.
“If you are experiencing symptoms such as bad chest pains, persistent vomiting, shortness of breath, passing out, weakness or confusion, I would suggest coming to the emergency room, especially if you are pregnant, have diabetes, heart disease or other chronic health conditions,” he said. “We have a team of board-certified emergency physicians who can attend to adults and children to evaluate the severity of the illness and potential treatment options.”
To schedule your flu shot, call (985) 224-3727.