Experts Give Tips on When and Where to Get Help With the Flu

Experts Give Tips on When and Where to Get Help With the Flu

KMIR

Coachella Valley Region

"One sneeze in a classroom and you’ve got those particulates aerosolized throughout that entire classroom," says Physicians Assistant Paul Manney with Healthcare Express Urgent Care in Palm Desert, adding that they can stay suspended for more than an hour, long enough for many to breath them in and become infected with the flu.

The flu is so widespread across the country it has reached epidemic levels. The flu has killed 91 people under the age of 64 in California alone, one of the highest. In the last week more five more deaths in Riverside County have been linked to the flu, bringing the total to 11. There were only two this time last year in the county. 

"One sneeze in a classroom and you’ve got those particulates aerosolized throughout that entire classroom," says Physicians Assistant Paul Manney with Healthcare Express Urgent Care in Palm Desert, adding that they can stay suspended for more than an hour, long enough for many to breath them in and become infected with the flu.

The flu is spreading rapidly, people infected with the flu or flu like symptoms are flooding healthcare providers. 

"Urgent cares, the doctors offices are all saturated with patients that have the flu type illness," says Jeff Baker, an emergency professor of emergency medicine at Desert Regional Medical Center,

Manney says they’re feeling the spike at their urgent care, "Our initial patients census in our urgent care was 50 percent more immediately following Christmas … than it had been last year."

Getting treated for the flu can help prevent complications that can land you in the hospital or worse. But many don’t know how to tell when and if they should be seen. 

Manney says the flu is a lot more severe than a typical cold, "You’re getting a very high fever and number two that you are more fatigued than you have felt with any other cold, you should consider, within day one or two that you probably have the flu, you should not wait to get that diagnosed."

Baker says those with underlying health conditions, the very young, the elderly and those who are pregnant are more at risk for serious complications. And should seek treatment earlier. And he says just because you had a flu shot doesn’t mean you won’t get the flu, "Don’t be surprised if you’ve been immunized but you still have flu symptoms … You could have the flu and have been immunized."

Manney says that you can self treat many colds or mild flu symptoms but the key is to stay hydrated. 

Both experts say if you can’t keep fluids down because of vomiting or diarrhea, you should be seen by a doctor immediately. 

Deciding on going to the urgent care versus an emergency room can be tricky too. Urgent care facilities have a wide variety of treatments and can assess you quickly because wait times are usually lower. But Desert Regional does assess patients as soon as they walk in to their E.R. and the wait time is based on the severity of illness. 

Manney says they have breathing treatments, oxygen and other medical services that will make you feel better instantly, but warns, "If you’re having symptoms that are just not responding and you’ve already been seen in an urgent care your next visit  should probably be to an E.R.," adding if your condition is critical they won’t hesitate to call an ambulance, "you should go to the ER if you’re having trouble breathing immediately."

Manney says antivirals have been proven effective to make the flu symptoms less severe, but because of overwhelming demand there is spot shortages of drugs like Tami-flu. He also says those must be taken within 48 hours from first symptoms to be effective. 

Baker says people expect to feel better immediately after they take antivirals and that’s a misconception. 

Manney also says good hygiene and cleaning out nasal passages will keep the flu away and it’s important to keep the mucus moist and humidifiers and hot fluids will help. 

Experts say it’s important to stay home if you’re sick with the flu and take extra precautions if you must go out in order to prevent from spreading the flu.

Baker says it’s also important to be courteous when you visit healthcare providers and wash you hands, wear a mask, cover coughs and sneezes to help keep healthcare workers from getting sick. 

The flu season runs from October to April so experts warn the worst could still be to come but if you take extra precautions to stay healthy and get treatment early, you could avoid serious complications from the flu.