It’s that time of year again - flu season! Flu season typically begins in late fall, peaks over the winter, and starts to fade as spring appears. But what is influenza? Influenza is a respiratory illness that gives systemic symptoms, affecting the entire body at times. Influenza is a virus which is spread through infected droplets. These droplets can be spread by coughing, or by particles on hands.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, feverish chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and tiredness. “If you’re worried about your symptoms, it is best to be seen early,” shares Dr. Priyanka Yerragorla, Internal Medicine physician at Hannibal Regional Medical Group. “One of the ways to tell if it is the flu is that your symptoms will hit suddenly - usually within a matter of hours.” Most cases of the flu may not be serious, but you may need to visit a doctor.
“If you think you have the flu and may be at high risk for developing complications, you should see a doctor right away,” says Dr. Yerragorla. According to the CDC, those most at risk for developing serious flu-related complications are: children under the age of five, senior citizens, pregnant women, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. Influenza infection can cause complications like secondary bacterial pneumonia, worsening of underlying medical conditions like Asthma, COPD, Congestive heart failure, and Diabetes mellitus.
“The flu can worsen quickly - which is why you should seek medical care if you think you have the flu. Treatment to shorten the time you are sick and prevent complications can be administered within the first two days of your symptoms appearing,” says Dr. Yerragorla.
“Getting a flu vaccine every year is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from the flu. It also helps protect those around you who, for some concerning medical reason, cannot get vaccinated because their risk of exposure to a person with the flu could decrease,” says Dr. Yerragorla. “There are also a couple of medicines which will help shorten the duration of your illness and may help prevent serious complications. However, these medications are not effective if they aren’t started within the first forty-eight hours of symptom onset.” In addition to the flu vaccine, there are a few things you can do to help minimize your risk of developing serious flu-related complications. Wash your hands - proper hand hygiene will prevent droplet spread from person to person. Cover your cough - and try to avoid those who are ill, as this will help decrease the spread of illness. Stay home from work or school when you are ill to help protect those around you. See a doctor if your symptoms worsen or do not improve within a couple of days.
To contact Hannibal Regional Medical Group call (573) 629-3500. Flu shots are available at Hannibal Regional Medical Group locations and no appointment is necessary to get a shot.