February 2, 2017 – The Minnesota Department of Health is currently reporting that influenza (the flu) is widespread throughout the state. The flu is a respiratory virus that attacks the nose, throat and lungs. It is not the same as the “stomach flu.”
Urgent care clinics, medical clinics and emergency departments are seeing an increase in patients coming in with flu-like symptoms. If you have symptoms of influenza – body aches, fever and extreme tiredness along with stuffy nose, cough and sore throat, you should be seen by a medical provider. The provider may or may not test for influenza depending on your symptoms. If you are tested and it is positive you may receive an anti-viral medication to help relieve the symptoms. If negative, you may have a cold or other viral infection.
Dr. Robert Christensen, emergency physician at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic in St. Peter said that in the case of a viral infection, antibiotics may do more harm than good. “It is best not to be given an antibiotic when a viral infection is the cause of the problem,” he said. Antibiotics are designed to kill the bad germs (bacteria) that cause an illness or infection. If given for a viral infection, the antibiotics may kill the good germs needed by the body and can cause other issues like diarrhea and yeast infections.
Patients who come to urgent care or the emergency department with flu-like symptoms and do not feel better after 3-4 days after be re-evaluated by a medical provider. Dr. Christensen recommends people who have a fever 72-96 hours after seeing a provider or recurrence of fever, along with continuing flu symptoms should be seen again to rule out a secondary infection like pneumonia or sinus infection.
To protect yourself from influenza the first line of defense is to get a flu shot. Handwashing is the second best defense in preventing illness. You should also cover your cough and sneezes, avoid being around others who are sick and frequently clean commonly touched surfaces. To help stop spreading viruses stay home if you are sick, rest and drink lots of fluids, and see a doctor if your symptoms worsen.
Information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace advice or treatment from qualified medical professionals.