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Could It Be The Flu? Learn Flu Symptoms, Treatment & More

Posted on Wed, Jan 24, 2018
Could It Be The Flu? Learn Flu Symptoms, Treatment & More

By eMedical Urgent Care  

Winter is coming. As colder weather approaches and more people stay indoors -- and in close proximity to each other -- our offices begin to see more patients with sore throats, upper respiratory illnesses, sinus infections and colds. The majority of these illnesses are caused by viruses. As doctors, we begin to see cases develop in October, peak during January and February, and finally begin to taper off in March. 

More than Just a Cold

This time of year, we also begin to see patients with “flu-like” symptoms.  An influenza infection, commonly called “the flu”, is different from the common cold because it’s caused by the influenza virus, which can potentially be much more severe than the common cold. 

In the most susceptible patients, such as the elderly, or those with underlying medical conditions, severe flu illness can be potentially life threatening.  Adults with the flu virus usually are contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after symptoms develop. Children may be contagious for more than seven days. 

How Does the Flu Spread

The virus is spread primarily by “droplet” contamination, meaning that when an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs, droplets containing the virus can spread to others up to six feet away. The droplets can land in the mouths and noses of others and can be inhaled into the lungs. This is why it’s important to cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and wash your hands afterwards. 

The next most common method of infection is from touching a surface that has the flu virus (such as a door knob) and then touching your mouth or nose. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using alcohol-based waterless hand cleansers are the best ways to prevent this transmission. Any items used by infected individuals, such as dishes, silverware, linens and towels, shouldn’t be shared and should be washed thoroughly before reusing. 

Get a Flu Shot

The most important piece of advice to remember regarding preventing the flu is to get vaccinated. Vaccination not only prevents the vaccine recipient from illness but also prevents the spread of the flu throughout the community. 

The flu vaccine must be given annually. It contains three of the four most common strains of the influenza virus for the upcoming flu season based on sophisticated computer models that predict which virus will be most likely to be circulating in a particular year. The flu vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for everyone over the age of 6 months.

What are Flu Symptoms?

Symptoms of the common cold and the flu can have similar symptoms and may be hard to differentiate.  
Flu symptoms tend to be more severe and include:
  • High fever (although the flu can occur without a fever)
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Body aches
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
Patients may occasionally develop nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Your fever may last three to five days, and cough and exhaustion can last up to two weeks. The symptoms generally start abruptly. 

But Do I Really Have the Flu?

Your doctor will determine if you have the flu based on your symptoms and his clinical assessment of your physical condition. The most common testing used is the rapid flu test, when a swab is taken from the nose or throat and analyzed. This test can detect the flu usually within a few minutes. Unfortunately, this test is not foolproof, meaning you can have a negative test and still have the flu. Generally, if your doctor suspects the flu based on symptoms, patient risk factors and the pattern of flu infections in the community, he or she will begin treating the virus even if the rapid flu test is not performed. 

How to Treat the Flu

  • You can treat flu symptoms with and without medication
  • Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to help alleviate your symptoms
  • Antibiotics are only necessary if your viral illness has developed into a bacterial infection

Remember, influenza virus symptoms are usually more severe than the common cold and can be dangerous for the elderly, young and high-risk patients with underlying medical problems. The flu virus is contagious, and proper precautions should be taken to prevent getting the flu or spreading it to others. 

Frequent hand washing and covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing can help eliminate the potential of contamination. The most effective method of prevention for individuals and their communities is vaccination. There is no cure for flu. If treated early, antivirals can reduce the severity and duration of flu symptoms. Call or stop by our office today if you think you have the flu. 

If you need medical attention for a non-life-threatening illness or injury, eMedical Urgent Care is open seven days a week from 8 am to 8 pm to treat walk-in patients. 
 

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Sneezing and Coughing and Aching, Oh My!

Posted on Fri, Jan 04, 2013

By eMedical Offices fluYour daughter came home from college and brought a stuffy nose. Your son came home from a play date and is complaining of a sore throat. Want to start placing bets when you’ll come down with a full blown cold? As colder weather approaches and more people stay indoors -- and in close proximity to each other -- our offices begin to see more patients with upper respiratory infections or colds. As doctors, we begin to see cases develop in October and peak during January and February, then begin to taper off in March. Getting the “flu” is different from the common cold because it’s caused by the influenza virus and can potentially be much more severe than the common cold. In the most susceptible patients, such as the elderly, or those with underlying medical conditions, severe flu illness can be potentially life threatening. Spreading the Virus The flu virus usually is contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after symptoms develop. The virus is spread primarily by “droplet” contamination, meaning when an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs, droplets containing the virus can spread to others, up to 6 feet away. A bit gross to think about, but the droplets can land in the mouths and noses of others, and can be inhaled into the lungs.  This is why it’s important to cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and wash your hands afterwards. The next most common method of infection is from touching a surface that has the flu virus, such as a door knob, and then touching your mouth or nose. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using alcohol-based waterless hand cleansers are the best ways to prevent this transmission. Any items used by infected individuals, such as dishes, silverware, linens and towels, shouldn’t be shared and should be washed thoroughly before reusing. Prevention The most important piece of advice I give regarding preventing the flu is to get vaccinated. Vaccination not only helps prevent the vaccine recipient from illness but also helps prevent the spread of the flu throughout the community. The flu vaccine must be given annually. It contains the 3 most common strains of the influenza virus for the upcoming flu season based on sophisticated computer models that predict which virus will be most likely to be circulating in a particular year. The flu vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for everyone over the age of 6 months. Another option is the flu vaccine in a nasal spray form, which can be given to anyone who is healthy, not pregnant and between the ages of 2 to 49. Symptoms of the Flu Generally, the common cold and the flu can have similar respiratory infection symptoms.  The flu tends to be more severe and includes:

  • High fever (although the flu can occur without a fever)
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Body aches
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
Occasionally patients can develop nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Your fever may last 3 to 5 days, and the cough and exhaustion can last up to 2 weeks. The symptoms generally start abruptly. But Do I Really Have the Flu? Your doctor will determine if you have the flu based on your symptoms and his clinical assessment of your physical condition. The most common testing used is the rapid flu test, when a swab is taken from the nose or throat and analyzed. This test can detect the flu usually within a few minutes. Unfortunately this test is not foolproof, meaning you can have a negative test and still have the flu. Generally if your doctor suspects the flu based on symptoms, patient risk factors and the pattern of flu infections in the community, he or she will begin treating the virus even if the rapid flu test is not performed. Treatment
  • You can treat flu symptoms with and without medication
  • Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to help alleviate your symptoms
  • Antibiotics are necessary if your illness has developed into a bacterial infection
Last Words The virus that causes the flu and its symptoms are usually more severe than the common cold, and can be dangerous for high-risk patients with underlying medical problems. The flu virus is contagious, and proper precautions should be taken. Frequently washing your hands and covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing can help eliminate the potential of contamination. The most effective method of prevention for individuals and their communities is vaccination. If treated early, antivirals can reduce the severity and duration of flu symptoms. Call or stop by our office today if you think that you have the flu. If you need medical attention for a non-life-threatening illness or injury, eMedical Offices is open during the evening hours to treat walk-in patients. If you have questions about medical conditions, download iTriage from the iTunes or Android Marketplace, or check out iTriageHealth.com for your healthcare answers.

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Got a Sinus Infection? Antibiotics Probably Aren’t the Answer

Posted on Tue, Mar 06, 2012

By eMedical Urgent Care Woman SneezingIt’s that time of year again. Yes, it’s been an unusually mild winter, but coughing, sneezing and stuffy noses are everywhere. And some of those folks have not just a cold, but sinusitis. And if you’re among them, it’s important to know what’s causing your illness– and how to treat it properly. Sinus infections, known as sinusitis, are one of the most frequent reasons patients come to our urgent care centers. And while many patients expect to be treated with antibiotics, both recent medical literature and  medical organizations that develop treatment guidelines and recommendations for these types of illnesses, such as the American Academy of Otolaryngology and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, have concluded that antibiotic treatment of sinusitis is not in fact indicated in most patients and have set clear diagnostic standards for their appropriate use. Sinus Infections: They Are All Around You

  • In 2010, nearly 30 million adults were diagnosed with sinusitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • These patients accounted for nearly 13 million outpatient visits.
  • Children aged 6 months to 3 years average six viral upper respiratory infections (URIs) each year, and about 8 percent of these will be complicated by acute bacterial sinusitis.
  • Women are more likely to experience sinus infections probably because they have more contact with young children.
  • It is estimated that sinusitis costs patients about $6 billion dollars annually in health care costs.
Symptoms and Causes By definition, sinusitis is an inflammation of the cavities in the skull and facial bones that empty into the nose. Sinusitis can be further classified based on both its severity and its cause, with approximately 80 percent of cases being infectious, and the remainder allergic. Differentiating between the two potential causes is sometimes difficult, particularly in the spring and fall when allergies are likely to flair. The sinuses are normally filled with air, and the small amount of mucus they produce drains through very small openings, passing into the nose unnoticed. But when those openings become clogged, the mucus backs up, the sinus fills with mucus, and the symptoms of sinusitis appear, including:
  • Nasal congestion
  • Facial pain or pressure—characteristically aggravated by leaning forward
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Facial swelling
  • Redness, including nose, cheeks and eyelids
  • Postnasal drip
  • Persistent cough
  • Foul mucus discharge
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
But I Want an Antibiotic! Of those patients who develop viral upper respiratory infections (URIs or “colds”), 90 percent have some involvement of the sinuses, but only 5 to 10 percent of these cases will progress to acute bacterial sinusitis, when bacteria enter the sinuses and multiply, at which point the use of an antibiotic is warranted. Although there are no precise definitions, the general consensus is that acute bacterial sinusitis is more likely if URI symptoms are not improving within seven to 10 days, or if at that point symptoms are worsening or severe. So because sinusitis is usually caused by either a virus or an allergy—neither of which responds to antibiotics, your doctor will provide symptomatic treatment. Antibiotics will not only not be useful, but they actually could cause harm (side effects, allergic reactions, bacterial resistance) and should generally be used only if:
  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days or are worsening (for example, if your face is swelling or your teeth begin to hurt)
  • You have an underlying medical condition (such as diabetes, history of chronic sinusitis or recent bacterial sinusitis), or
  • Your symptoms are more severe than typical
Treating the Symptoms of a Sinus Infection To treat the symptoms of a sinus infection, you can make use of the following to help make yourself comfortable while the infection clears naturally:
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can relieve pain and help shrink mucus membranes. If you can’t take NSAIDs, acetaminophen can be used for pain relief.
  • Maintaining adequate hydration can be helpful, both internally (drink a lot of fluids) and externally, through the use of a humidifier. This can help loosen mucus and aid natural drainage.
  • Decongestants help by decreasing swelling. Pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine are oral decongestant and are available without prescription. However, these should be used with caution or under supervision of your physician if you have a history of hypertension or heart problems. Decongestants in the form of a long-acting nasal spray, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin and others), also are available without a prescription and can help drain blocked sinuses. They should not be used for more than three consecutive days to avoid rebound congestion, a condition in which overuse actually leads to a worsening of the congestion.
  • Medications known as mucolytics—such as guiafenesin—are said to work by loosening mucus secretions, but while frequently recommended, they have not been proven to be effective.
  • Nasal steroid sprays, available only by prescription, help alleviate symptoms by shrinking swollen and inflamed mucus membranes.
Using Antibiotics Properly If your doctor does prescribe an antibiotic to treat your sinus infection, the initial antibiotic of choice is generally amoxicillin. If you are allergic to penicillin, clarithromycin is a good alternative. Antibiotics for sinusitis are usually prescribed for at least 10 days, since shorter courses haven’t been proven as effective. If you have recurrent or severe sinusitis, secondary treatment could include an amoxicillin/clavulanic acid combination (Augmentin) or a fluoroquinolone (such as levofloxacin or ciprofloxacin). The course of treatment should be at least 10 days but could be 14 or 21 days depending on severity and how often you develop a sinus infection. In summary, most cases of sinusitis are viral in nature. Treatment with antibiotics is generally not helpful and not recommended. Treating your symptoms over the first seven days is the best approach. If your symptoms don’t improve in seven to 10 days, if the symptoms are severe or worsening, or if you have other medical issues, contact your doctor. eMedical Urgent Care is available seven days a week to evaluate you or your children to help decide the best and safest treatment to get you feeling better quickly. If you need medical attention for a non-life-threatening illness or injury, eMedical Urgent Care is open during the evening hours to treat walk-in patients. If you have questions about medical conditions, download iTriage from the iTunes or Android Marketplace, or check out iTriageHealth.com for your healthcare answers.

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