Protect yourself from the flu
The number of flu cases in our area continues to rise. While you can still contract the flu if you've received the flu vaccine, Gundersen Health System still highly recommends it. The flu shot can help lessen symptoms should you contract the flu, and it has been known to help prevent severe complications of the flu.
To protect yourself and others, Gundersen has the following suggestions:
- Get a flu shot. It's not too late. Contact your primary care provider or visit a Gundersen ExpressCare Clinic in La Crosse or Onalaska or Cass St Pharmacy.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Wash your hands. Good hand hygiene is important to prevent getting sick and to prevent spreading germs
What does the flu look like?
Flu symptoms may include fever, chills, severe headache, sore throat, chest congestion, nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing, severe weakness, tired, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and severe body aches. Antibiotics are not prescribed for the flu; the virus has to run its course. The Influenza virus typically has a course of 7-14 days.
When to seek medical care
If you experience a combination of the symptoms listed above, it is possible that you have contracted the flu. While antibiotics cannot be prescribed to treat the flu, certain prescribed medicines can be used when necessary to help remedy troublesome symptoms such as a severe cough or severe diarrhea/vomiting.
Where to seek medical care
If your flu symptoms are causing you concern, take the following steps:
- Make an appointment with your patient care provider. If you are not able to get an appointment in a timely manner, consider Gundersen ExpressCare.
- ExpressCare (in Onalaska or La Crosse) can evaluate your symptoms and prescribe any medications that may help treat some of the symptoms bothering you most. This is a fast and inexpensive option if you are looking to simply treat your symptoms. If you are not able to get to an ExpressCare during their hours of operation, Urgent Care would be your next option.
- Urgent Care can both test for the influenza virus and prescribe any medications that may help ease your flu symptoms. Keep in mind that during flu season, wait times may be longer than usual. If Urgent Care is closed or if there is a true emergency, report to the Trauma and Emergency Center (ER)
- The Trauma and Emergency Center should typically only be sought out if you are experiencing flu symptoms combined with shortness of breath, the inability to keep fluids down, or other serious and/or life-threatening concerns.
How to treat your symptoms at home
- Drink plenty of fluids (if your urine is yellow or darker, you are not drinking enough fluids).
- Get lots of rest, and then some more.
- Take Tylenol or Advil/Motrin/Aleve to help with fever, body and headaches.
- Continue to brush your teeth and use a mouthwash twice a day. This may help to remove some of the viruses from your mouth and throat.
- Use a saline nasal spray to relieve nasal congestion.
- Stay home until your symptoms begin to diminish and to prevent the spread of disease.
Who should take antiviral drugs?
It's very important that antiviral drugs are used early to treat people with severe flu illness, and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health. Most people who are otherwise healthy and get the flu do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
Following is a list of all the health and age factors that are known to increase a person's risk of getting serious complications from the flu:
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions
- Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
- Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
- Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
- People who are obese with a body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher
- People younger than 19 years of age on long-term aspirin therapy
- People with a weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
Other people at high risk from the flu:
- Adults 65 years and older
- Children younger than 5 years old, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after the end of pregnancy
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities