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Treating the Flu

The seasonal influenza (flu) is highly contagious.

Most people recover from the flu without any complications. However, some develop pneumonia or bronchitis. Pneumonia accounts for most of the deaths among people who had the flu.

The flu shot can help to protect from flu viruses, but the effectiveness of the vaccine in different strains varies from year to year.

Visit any Marshfield Clinic Health System primary care location during regular business hours for your flu shot.

Certain groups of people are more likely to suffer severe consequences from the flu.

If you become ill with the flu, the CDC recommends:

  • Stay home from work or school
  • Get lots of rest
  • Drink plenty of liquids
  • Avoid using alcohol and tobacco

There are over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve the symptoms of the flu (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever). Remember that serious illness from the flu is more likely in certain groups of people, including people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions and young children.

Be aware of emergency warning signs that require urgent medical attention.

Care for children

Children, especially very young children may be more susceptible to severe complications of seasonal flu.

The flu can be a serious medical condition for younger children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Children commonly need medical care because of influenza, especially before they turn 5 years old. Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old. Children with chronic health problems like asthma and diabetes are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications.

Children younger than 6 months of age

Children younger the 6 months of age are not approved to be vaccinated against the flu, so they are particularly vulnerable to the flu and its complications.

The best protection for children this young is for caregivers (both in and outside the home) to be vaccinated against seasonal flu.

Children from age 6 months to 5 years old

The CDC notes that this age group is in danger of contracting the flu and may suffer serious consequences.

According to the CDC, more than 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized because of the flu. Even children in this age group who are otherwise healthy are at risk simply because of their age.

To protect their health, all children 6 months and older should be vaccinated against the flu each year. Vaccinating young children, their families and other caregivers early in the flu season – September or October - can help protect them from getting sick.

Children with chronic medical conditions may need special care in avoiding or treating the flu.

Care for seniors

Anyone 65 years and older are at high risk for serious complications from the flu.

According to the CDC, 90 percent of seasonal flu deaths and more than half of hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older each year.

The most important step is to get a vaccination for the seasonal flu each year early in the fall. Even if you aren't vaccinated early, it is still important to get the shot because you are at risk for the seasonal flu through spring.

Others at risk

If you have a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes and so on, you may be at even greater risk for serious complications from the flu. Consult your doctor and take the recommended steps to care for yourself.

Emergency symptoms

You should be aware of symptoms that signal a medical emergency.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the emergency symptoms above.