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How to Treat & Prevent Winter Illness

How to treat the flu, the best ways to prevent the flu, and why the flu shot is so important this season.

What to Expect This Flu Season

After a historically low flu season in 2020-21, new data shows that the number of flu cases is on the rise. Influenza A is responsible for the majority of cases so far. The Walgreens flu index, which measures antiviral prescription data to monitor flu cases, indicates that nationwide flu activity is 192 percent higher than one year ago. 

When is Flu Season?

Flu season typically peaks in January through March in Mississippi, and the flu shot usually takes up to two weeks to produce immunity.

According to Doctor Robert Barnes, an internal medicine physician at Panola Medical Center, this flu season will be just as significant as years in the past.

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We are starting to see more flu cases this year compared to last year, as not as many people are wearing their masks this year and social distancing.

 

It is still not too late to get your flu vaccination this season. It takes a few weeks to help build immunity to the flu, so it is important to get a vaccine as soon as possible. With COVID cases peaking and flu cases starting to rise, protect yourself and your family further by getting vaccinated and using basic hygiene and masks to keep yourself healthy!

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-Robert Barnes, MD

Internal Medicine Physician at

Family & Specialty Clinic

Early Flu Symptoms

1

Cough

Your body's reflexive response to the flu virus is coughing. When the flu virus enters your body it irritates the nerve endings in the throat, causing you to cough. 

Always cover your cough with your arm or a tissue to prevent further spread of the flu virus. 

3

Bodyaches & Chills

Body aches and chills are big indicators that the flu has entered your system. Chills can also mean that you have a fever. Contact your primary care provider to determine which medicine is best for you.

2

Sore Throat

When you notice your throat is sore, it is your bodies way of responding to the flu, strep throat or even tonsillitis. 

Schedule an appointment at our Family & Specialty Clinic to get a flu test, or diagnosis with one of these causes to your sore throat. 

4

Fatigue

Fatigue happens when you have the flu because your body is busy trying to fight the infection. When you are diagnosed with the flu, be sure to get as much rest as possible.

Flu, Cold, & COVID-19. What is the Difference?

It can be tricky to determine whether you have Covid, the Flu, or just a common cold. We created this chart of symptoms for each illness. It is always a good idea to get a Covid-19 test if you suspect any of these just to be safe. We offer drive-thru testing at Panola Medical Center.

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If you experience any of these symptoms, the best and most accurate way to tell if you have the flu or a cold is to get tested by your primary care physician.

How to Treat the Flu

Medications

Tamiflu, antihistamines and decongestants are often prescribed when diagnosed with the flu to help combat the symptoms. Talk to your primary care provider before using any medications.

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Drink Liquids

Drinking plenty of liquids will help your body when you have the flu. When your body fights an infection like the flu, your temperature increases, and you become dehydrated. Water is the best thing for you to drink, but if you have lost your appetite, then liquid calories will help replenish energy. Soup, tea with honey or lemon, and diet ginger ale or orange juice with low sugar are all good options.

Stay Home

The CDC recommends anyone with a fever and respiratory symptoms should stay home from work until 24 hours after their fever subsides. Get as much rest as you can and do as little physical activity as possible.

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Common Flu Myths

There is a lot of misinformation people have spread about the flu.

Panola Medical Center is here to bust the myths.

Myth 1:

You can catch the flu from the vaccine

Myth 2:

Healthy people don't need to be vaccinated

The flu shot contains an inactivated virus that doesn’t transmit infection. People who get sick after getting vaccinated were going to get sick anyway. It does take a few weeks for the vaccination to protect you from influenza, so there is a window of time after receiving the flu shot where you can get sick. But since some people get sick during the window before the vaccination starts working, it’s assumed the shot causes the illness.

This is incorrect. The vaccine cannot cause the flu

More than 14 million people between 18 and 49 years old tested positive for the flu in 2017/18. While seniors, children, and people with chronic illnesses are more susceptible to getting the virus, everyone can get the flu—even those with no pre-existing conditions.

Rochester Regional Health recommends yearly vaccination against influenza for everyone older than six months old, including pregnant women.

Myth 3:

Chicken Soup Can Cure the Flu

Myth 4:

Flu is Nothing More than a Bad Cold

While warm liquids can soothe a sore throat and provide much-needed fluids, chicken soup has no specific qualities that can cure the flu—no matter what your grandma tells you.

The flu can cause severe cold symptoms, like sore throat, cough, and runny nose, but the flu is certainly more severe than a cold and should not be taken lightly.

Once your doctor confirms you have caught influenza, you should not attend work or public places until the virus has left your body.

Flu at Work

No one wants to be sick at work, let alone work with someone who has a virus that could land you in bed for up to a week. Unfortunately, the workplace can be the perfect place for the spread of germs. Take these precautions to lower your chances of contracting the flu.

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Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer.

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Don't Touch Your Face

The flu virus enters the body through your nose, mouth, and eyes. Keep your hands away from your face to decrease your risk of infection.

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Clean Common Surfaces

Keep disinfectant wipes at your workspace to ensure someone else’s germs don’t stick around in your area. This is especially important if you eat at your desk!

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Fist Bumps> Handshakes

Humans carry lots of bacteria on our hands, which results in lots of opportunities to spread germs. You can always try a fist bump if it means staying flu-free.

How to Avoid the Flu

1

Get your Flu SHot

The flu vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the influenza virus and drastically decreases your chances of catching the virus.

2

Wash Your Hands

Thorough and frequent hand-washing can be effective in preventing the flu and many other common infections.

3

Contain Coughs & Sneezes

4

Avoid Crowds

Just like we learned with coronavirus, droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or possibly get inhaled. To avoid spreading or catching the flu, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. If someone sneezes or coughs on you, immediately treat the area with soap and water to increase your chance of preventing the flu.

Avoid crowds during peak flu season to reduce your chances of infection. And if you're sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides so that you lessen your chance of infecting others.