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Fighting the Flu: Symptoms, Treatments, and Precautions to Take

Fighting the Flu: Symptoms, Treatments, and Precautions to Take

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If influenza has hit your household, you are not alone. Flu is on the rise across the region, the state and the country, according to regional health department reports.

Missouri has had over 17,000 reported cases, with about 1,300 from St. Louis County alone – marking the highest flu activity the state has seen in four years. And the flu season isn’t over yet.

Most importantly, if you have not yet gotten vaccinated, you can still protect yourself by getting a flu shot. In addition, here are ways to avoid the virus and reduce the risk of getting sick.

Precautions to Take

Wash your hands. Use soap and water to lather your entire hand - not just fingers and palms. Teach young children to say the alphabet while washing their hands, while the rest of us need to wash for 15 seconds to kill germs.

Unless your hands are clean, avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose. The use of hand sanitizers also helps reduce the spread of germs. Try to use your forearm or cover your hand with a paper towel to turn off water and open doors in public restrooms.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Encourage those who are sick to stay home to prevent the spread of the illness.

Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose during sneezes and coughing. Discard used tissues into wastebasket. If a tissue is not available, cough into your upper sleeve so your hand does not become contaminated.

The Symptoms

If you’re on the lookout for telltale signs of the flu, be aware that every year as strains change, symptoms may vary as well. Influenza is mainly a respiratory illness, but all body systems can suffer. Symptoms can include any or all of the following:

  • High fever, sometimes up to 105 degrees
  • Severe aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fatigue that some describe as exhaustion

Most cases of the flu can be treated by getting plenty of rest, increasing fluids, and treating the symptoms of fever aches and pains with over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Symptoms can last 4 to 5 days, but you may remain contagious for up to 7 days. Avoid contact with the very young, elderly or high-risk individuals because the flu can pose a greater health risk for these people.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should be evaluated by a health care provider:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Mental status changes
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache
  • Refusal to walk
  • Dehydration
  • Ear or sinus pain
  • Fevers that last longer than 4 days and other symptoms that last longer than 10 to 14 days
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