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The Flu-When to Call the Doctor

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The Flu-When to Call the Doctor

Every year many people are affected by viruses and the flu. While most such conditions are relatively minor and produce few serious problems it is important to know what to expect and when your symptoms are serious enough to contact your doctor.

Be aware that influenza viruses, or the flu as it is commonly known, exist in three different types known as A, B and C. Type C results in few or no symptoms at all and is usually only a mild respiratory illness. Types A and B viruses can cause flu epidemics. These types tend to mutate from year to the next. As a result vaccines can only work for one year-the year in which they are given. This is why you must have a new flu shot every year.

The flu usually causes a series of easily recognized symptoms including the following:

Fever-a result of the body activating white blood cells to fight the virus
Headache-a result of the body’s inflammatory response to the virus
Sore eyes-Results from inflammation in the mucous membranes of the eyes
Nasal congestion-Results from expansion of the blood vessels in the mucous membranes
Sore throat-A result of inflammation in the throat tissues
Fatigue-Results from your body devoting energy to the immune response in fighting the virus
Body aches- A result from your immune system fighting the virus

Your doctor may be able to prescribe several treatments which can help to reduce both the severity and the duration of the flu should you become infected. Be aware that for most medications; however, you must begin taking them within 48 hours of becoming infected in order for them to be effective.

In addition, thee are several other methods you can use at home to help reduce the severity of your symptoms. Keep in mind that if you develop fever, or if your child develops fever, it is not advisable to take aspirin. In children, this can result in Reye’s Syndrome, a life-threatening condition. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen is a better treatment. These two over the counter medications can also help to ease muscle aches and chills commonly associated with the flu.

To combat dehydration be sure to drink plenty of fluids. For adults this means 8 ounces of fluids every two hours and for children frequent sips every half-hour. Be sure to avoid alcoholic beverages, which could interact with your medications. It is also a good idea to avoid smoking while you have the flu as this could further irritate your respiratory tissue.

Try to get as much rest as possible while you are suffering from the flu. Avoid the temptation to try to over do it. Let your body fully recover before resuming normal activities to prevent a relapse.

In some cases, you may experience vomiting and diarrhea from the flu. Contact your doctor to find out the best course of action to treat this symptom. Do be sure you get plenty of fluids to avoid further dehydration. Sports drinks are an excellent way to combat this problem.

Typically, the flu provides few serious complications and is over within a week; however, in some cases it can result in rare problems. You should always contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms or problems:

Bleeding
Ear pain
Severe confusion, loss of consciousness or seizures
Irregular heartbeat
Prolonged headache
Cough with blood
Difficulty breathing
Wheezy cough
High fever that lasts longer than 4 or 5 days

You should also contact your doctor if you have any of the following conditions and develop the flu:

You are pregnant
You have a suppressed immune system
You have a chronic heart or lung disease
You have renal dysfunction
You have diabetes