“Peace of Mind” | Is it “The FLU?”

January 24, 2019
A sign warning about flu season

#WPUPeaceOfMind Blog No. 2:
Is it “The FLU?”

By Dr. Laura Hardin-Lee, University Physician

It is that time of year again. How can you tell when you need to go to the doctor? The flu is typically seen from November to April – this virus likes the colder months.

Influenza typically has rapid onset- you feel fine one minute and then get immediate body aches, high fever, headache/eyes hurt, and fatigue. People with the flu often state, “It feels like a truck hit me.” Initially you may have just a scratchy throat, but quickly a cough begins with head congestion. You may initially have no appetite, nausea or even a bit of looser stools- typically GI symptoms last for just the first 24 hrs.

Here are some symptoms to help you decipher whether you have Influenza or the common cold.

Influenza (The Flu) Common Cold
Rapid onset Gradual Onset
Fever over 100.4 Temperature less than 100
Bad Body Aches (“hit by a truck”) Slight Body Aches
Chills Rare chills
Bad Cough Mild to Moderate cough
Headache Slight or no Headache

People with the flu can be sick with a fever for 5- 7 days, with the fatigue and cough lasting a couple weeks. If you note that you are getting much sicker in the first 24- 48 hours, go get a flu test. The flu test is a nasal swab which helps confirm if you have the flu.

How to shorten the course THE FLU?

Get the FLU SHOT! The flu shot takes 2 weeks to build immunity but people with the flu shot tend to have less severe symptoms for shorter amount of time. The majority of flu related deaths last year occurred in people who did not get the flu shot.

Tamiflu or other antiviral medication can be started in the first two days of symptoms. The antiviral prevents the virus from multiplying so it is easier for your body to contain the virus and get rid of it. The antiviral does not kill the virus, but it lowers the level, so that your body can control it and start to get better. It can shorten symptoms by 1-2 days.

Does everyone who gets the flu need Tamiflu or antiviral medication?

No, not everyone needs to take Tamiflu. Normally, healthy people can fight off the flu with good old fashioned rest, lots of fluids and over-the-counter medications to control symptoms. .

Elderly people, young children, and people with health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma have a lower immune response that affects their immune system. They have a hard time fighting the virus so Tamiflu is needed to help.

How to Prevent Spreading the FLU?

Good Hand Washing. Wash your hands for 20 seconds in warm soapy water (about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice) – dry hands well with paper towels instead of cloth towels. Use hand sanitizer.

Wash your hands after touching common surfaces – door handles, elevator/ATM buttons. Wash your hands before eating or touching your eyes or face.

Covering your cough. Cough into your elbow or shoulder.

Stay home or in your room if you have a fever. A fever is a temperature 100.4 or higher by mouth or 99.4 if temperature is taken from axillary or skin thermometer. If you do not have a thermometer it is a good idea to get one. Other symptoms of fever are sweats, chills, and body aches.

What are complications of the flu?

When your body is fighting off the virus, you are weakened and you can get secondary bacterial infections – like pneumonia, ear infections, and strep throat. Dehydration is also a common side effect of not getting enough fluids. If you are not getting better or are concerned about your condition, go ahead and get checked by your health care provider.

To contact a WPU Nurse with questions, or to get a flu test if you think you have the flu, stop by the Wellness Center located in Joyner House. You may also email WPU Heath Services for more information. Most local pharmacies carry the flu shot, and most major insurance plans cover the cost entirely. Be well!

Be sure to check back monthly for blog posts from WPU Health and Wellness, or search #WPUPeaceOfMind on social media for more content.