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How and when to seek care for Flu 

 

From the Kent County Health Department and area hospitals

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports flu is now widespread throughout Michigan and many surrounding states. Area hospitals, urgent care facilities and doctor offices are experiencing an increase in the number of people presenting with flu and flu-like symptoms. They give tips below on preventing it and caring for yourself if you get it. Also note, in order to help limit exposure to flu, area hospitals and clinics are also limiting the number of visitors patients can have visit them or accompany them. All the info is below.

It is important for our community to know how to prevent flu, when to seek care and where to seek care. Although the flu shot does not always prevent the flu, it can lessen the severity and duration. There is still time to get the flu shot if you have not done so already. 

WHAT IS FLU:

Influenza is a respiratory illness. It is especially harmful to children, people over 65 years of age, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions. Common symptoms include: 

  • Fever (but not everyone will have fever)
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat 
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Body aches 
  • Headache 
  • Chills 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting 

PREVENTING FLU: 

Area health care providers and the CDC recommend the following to avoid flu: 

  • Get a flu shot. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. 
  • If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever/symptoms are gone and you have stopped taking fever reducers. 
  • Take extra precautions to stay away from children, people over 65 years of age, 
  • pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue away after it has been used and wash your hands. 

WHEN TO SEEK CARE:

Most people with flu will have a mild illness and can treat symptoms by staying home and avoiding contact with others. 

If you have flu-like symptoms and are in a high risk group or are very sick, contact your health care provider, such as a doctor, physician assistant or nurse. 

If you are in a high risk group, contact your health care provider early in your illness. 

Seek emergency medical treatment if you experience emergency warning signs, such as: 

In children 

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing 
  • Bluish skin color 
  • Not drinking enough fluids 
  • Not waking up or not interacting 
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held 
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough 
  • Fever with a rash 

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs: 

  • Being unable to eat 
  • Has trouble breathing 
  • Has no tears when crying 
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal 

In adults 

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath 
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen 
  • Sudden dizziness 
  • Confusion 
  • Severe or persistent vomiting 
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough 

WHERE TO SEEK CARE:

Try to treat your illness at home with over-the-counter fever and pain reducers, cough medicine and other products. If you are in a high-risk group or cannot control symptoms, seek non-emergency care through one of the following: 

  • Primary care provider office 
  • Urgent care 

If you or a loved one experiences the emergency warning signs above, seek immediate care at a hospital emergency room. 

EMERGENCY SERVICES: 

If you are experiencing shortness of breath, numbness, facial or arm paralysis, slurred speech or other heart attack or stroke symptoms, call 9-1-1 for immediate medical care. 

LIMITING EXPOSURE BY LIMITING VISITORS

Grand Rapids area hospitals are working to meet the challenge of caring for our community during this CDC-declared flu epidemic. One of the most important tools in fighting the transmission of flu is limiting exposure. 

The flu can be especially dangerous to the young, frail or elderly. For the safety of patients and staff, Spectrum Health, Mercy Health, Metro Health – University of  Michigan Health, Mary Free Bed and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services are limiting visitation to their hospitals. In addition, they are asking patients to limit the number of people who accompany them to office and clinic visits. 

Visitors are asked to respect the following restrictions: 

  • If you are ill or have been exposed to someone who is ill, please refrain from visiting the hospital. 

All visitors are expected to be healthy and the hospitals are taking active steps to protect patients, staff and visitors. A healthy visitor is someone who does not have the following symptoms: 

  • Fever, greater than 100.4 F 
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat 
  • Runny nose or congestion 
  • Vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Rash or draining sores 
  • Only healthy visitors should visit patients in the hospitals or outpatient clinics 
  • Hospitals strongly recommend only two visitors or family members visit a patient at a time in order to limit exposure to patients, visitors and family members. 

These conditions apply to visitors at all Grand Rapids area hospitals and at all Spectrum Health hospitals outside of Grand Rapids and are effective until further notice. These measures are designed to protect vulnerable patients. 

To avoid getting influenza, Kent County area physicians recommend: 

  • Get your seasonal influenza vaccine 
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly 
  • Avoid contact with people who have flu-like symptoms 
  • Get plenty of rest 
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet 

Influenza Facts 

  • Most symptoms can and should be treated at home. Only the most severe illnesses require a visit to an urgent care location or emergency department. 
  • It will take anywhere from five to 10 days for the illness to run its course 
  • Most people who contract influenza should try to stay home, rest, drink plenty of liquids and take acetaminophen or an anti-inflammatory medicine.

For more info go to https://www.cdc.gov/flu/

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