How to Manage the Cold and Flu
Normally in Wisconsin we would have seen flu activity peak around the end of January. As we inch closer to spring, there still hasn’t been a peak. Do we need to brace ourselves for what’s to come, or is it just a mild year?
According to Dr. Temte, there have been more than 235 individuals with influenza admitted to hospitals in Wisconsin. That’s compared to nearly 4,000 around the same time last year. A well-matched flu vaccine, combined with a mild winter certainly did a lot to help limit the spread. But we’re not out of the woods just yet.
“In the last couple of weeks, we have been seeing increasing activity of both influenza A and human metapneumovirus – or hMPV. Influenza and hMPV tend to make people sicker, with fevers and pronounced cough. They can also be accompanied by muscle aches and fatigue,” he explains.
And he notes, there are still the common cold viruses as well – rhinovirus and coronavirus – that are always present during the cold and flu season.
How to Manage When Your Sick
If you do get sick this season, the recommendations are ones you’ve heard before – get plenty of rest, keep hydrated and use over-the-counter medication for fever reduction and pain if needed.
“I usually recommend ibuprofen. Acetaminophen can also be used, but we avoid aspirin due to a rare complication if given when someone is sick with influenza,” explains Dr. Temte.
For influenza, if it is diagnosed early, oseltamivir can be given but the medication should be started within 48 hours of the first symptom to be effective. This can shorten the time of illness and reduce symptoms. You may have heard recommendations to throw out your toothbrush or chapstick after you’re on the mend to help prevent re-occurrence, but that may not be necessary.
“Most of the viruses can persist outside of the body only for a few minutes to a few hours. By the time you’re well, personal items should be just fine,” he says.
Tips for Staying Healthy
And what if you managed to avoid illness so far? You can keep it that way by taking some precautions.
“This year, the influenza vaccine match is quite good. It is not too late to get the vaccine if you haven’t already,” explains Dr. Temte. He adds that for all other viruses, and influenza too, careful handwashing can help, use hand sanitizer, along with avoiding close contact with people who are coughing and sneezing, otherwise known as avoiding the “cough cloud.”
And those who are sick can help prevent the spread as well by covering their coughs and sneezes, and using good handwashing.
“When coughing or sneezing, or around someone who is, you can try to maintain a distance of three to four feet so that your family, friends and others are outside of the cough or sneeze ‘cloud,’” he says.
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Date Published: 02/26/2016