Integrity Urgent Care First Aid Handbook – The Flu

A woman sneezes on her couch
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This blog is part of a series of blog posts designed to serve as a quick reference guide. Each will focus on a sudden injury or illness and is designed to help you make an informed decision on a plan of action when the unexpected happens.

Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a group of viruses. It is usually relatively mild, but it can be severe and can rarely even lead to death. The flu is often mistaken for a cold, but is not the same thing. This guide will help you determine whether you or your child has the flu and when to seek medical attention.

It’s important to mention that getting a flu shot is the single most effective way to prevent the flu. It’s not too late to get a flu shot! Flu shots are available at Integrity Urgent Care every day from 8 am – 8 pm and no appointment is needed. They are free with most insurance plans or only $25 for those not covered by insurance.

How do I know that it’s the flu?

People who have the flu usually feel some or all of these symptoms.

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (Although it’s important to know that not all cases of the flu are accompanied by a fever.)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion/runny nose
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than in adults)

How is the flu different than a cold?

  • The flu comes on suddenly; the onset of a cold is gradual.
  • The flu is usually accompanied by a fever; fever is rare is cases of a cold.
  • Body aches are usual and can be severe with the flu; they are rare or slight with a cold.
  • Fatigue is more common with the flu.
  • Sneezing, a stuffy nose, and a sore throat are more common with a cold.
  • Headaches are usual with the flu and are rare with a cold.

When should I seek medical care?

  • In children, watch for:
    • Rapid breathing or breathing difficulty
    • Bluish skin
    • Refusal to drink fluids
    • Not interacting or waking up
    • Extreme irritability to the point where the child does not want to be held
    • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and a worse cough
    • Fever accompanied by a rash
  • In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for an infant who:
    • Is unable to eat
    • Has trouble breathing
    • Has no tears when crying
    • Has significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
  • In adults, watch for:
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Pain or pressure in the chest of abdomen
    • Sudden dizziness
    • Confusion
    • Severe or persistent vomiting
    • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and a worse cough

I’m pretty sure it’s the flu, but none of the warning symptoms are present. When should I make an appointment to see a doctor?

In most cases, the flu can be treated at home. However, if you are experiencing flu symptoms and are in a high-risk group (adults over 65, pregnant women, young children, and those with certain chronic medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease) or are very sick or worried about your illness, you should contact your doctor about the possibility of an antiviral drug. Most people do not need antiviral drugs.

Antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu) are prescription drugs that can make the illness milder and shorten sick time. They can also prevent serious complications such as pneumonia. In order to work best, these drugs should be started within two days of getting sick, but even starting them later can be helpful.

How can I treat the flu at home?

  • Stay at home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
  • Rest.
  • Drink plenty of water or other clear fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen can be used as directed to help with body aches and lower fever. 
  • Avoid close contact with other members of the household to avoid getting them sick.

Both Integrity Urgent Care locations are open daily from 8 am – 8 pm. Walk-ins are encouraged and appointments are never necessary. We’re only a phone call away if you need more information.

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