Have you had the flu this winter? If not, you probably know someone who has. North America has been hit hard by the flu this winter and there’s no sign yet that the infection rate is going down.
As of February 5, 2018, data from Health Canada states that over 3,000 hospitalizations, 285 intensive care unit admissions and 130 deaths have been reported in Canada. It’s important to remember that complications usually occur in only a small fraction of patients and rarely in those outside of the higher-risk groups – such as those who are immunocompromised, the elderly, pregnant women and very young children.
If you are outside these groups, chances are you will get better by staying home and taking care of yourself. In the vast majority of cases, the flu is benign and self-limited and you will get through it in due time. If your physical condition does deteriorate to the point where you have difficulty breathing, experience a severe headache, or have high fevers for several days in a row, then it might be time to seek medical attention.
We spoke to several BC physicians who shared their advice on what to do if you’ve got the flu:
- Self-care is important. Get off the fast-track and stay home. Get rest and take care of yourself. Taking it easy will actually help you get back to your regular activities faster.
- Fluids are your friend. Drink as much water or diluted juice as you can to maintain your blood pressure and keep your kidneys functioning well.
- About that fever… In most cases, there is no need to treat a fever. Remember, there is no correlation between how high a fever is and how bad or dangerous the infection. So, feel free to take over the counter medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) for bad muscle and joint pain, but you don’t need to take it just to bring a fever down.
- Antibiotics aren’t the answer. Antibiotics only cure certain infections that are caused by bacteria – and the flu is caused by a virus. Taking antibiotics when you have a virus can actually do more harm than good, potentially increasing your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. Remember – not all bugs need drugs.
- It's not too late to get the vaccine. Studies show that even in years when the vaccine is not a perfect match, there is still protection and every bit counts.
- Need to talk to your doctor? Remember that many BC physicians access billing codes that allow for visits by phone, secure email and messaging, and videoconferencing so expert advice on what to do and whether to go to a clinic can be a phone call to click away.
And remember, spring really is just around the corner.