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Fighting the Flu – Do You Know What to Do?

Flu season has really ramped up here in the Triangle. In fact, WakeMed alone has seen more than 1,600 cases this season, and the number of cases has increased each week so far in January. As compared to last year at this time, our number of flue cases so far this year has been nearly four times as many. (444 in 2019; 1,620 in 2020).

Nationally, the CDC estimates that there have been at least 13 million cases, 120,000 hospitalizations and 17,000 deaths from the flu so far.

What to Do About the Flu

If you think you (or your child) might have the flu, prompt action is your best bet. Here’s our top tips for managing the flu this year.

#1 – Treat Yourself for the Flu.

If you are symptomatic for flu, treat yourself for the flu. You could still have the flu, even if a rapid test result is negative. The rapid test, which is often done in urgent cares, pharmacy clinics, and physician offices, is only about 50-70% accurate when they give a negative result. If you have the symptoms, always treat yourself as if you have the flu. Stay rested, hydrated and home.

Anti-viral medications are only effective if administered within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

#2 – Follow Doctor’s Orders.

If your doctor recommends antiviral medication, get your prescription filled and take it right away. Otherwise, your doctor will likely tell you to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

They may also recommend over-the-counter medications for fever and cough – be sure to take them according to your doctor’s orders and make sure not to take more than recommended. This is particularly important when taking medications such as NyQuil or other blends – many people don’t realize that NyQuil contains acetaminophen (Tylenol), which may lead to an unintentional overdose.

#3 – Watch for Warning Signs.

The flu is serious business. Not only can the flu cause serious health complications and even death, it can also cause or aggravate other underlying conditions. Take note of the following warning signs to look for in both adults and children.

Emergency Warning Signs in Children

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

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • 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

Emergency Warning Signs in Adults

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 improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Flu Treatment – Where to Go

  • Primary CareIf you need flu testing or treatment during normal business hours, check with your primary care doctor first. Primary care is typically the least expensive treatment option and it’s best to work with a physician who knows you, your medical history and medications.
  • Urgent CareWakeMed Urgent Cares are open 8 am to 8 pm and offer flu testing and treatment. If you go to a WakeMed Primary Care physician, the urgent care team will also have access to your full medical history.
  • Emergency DepartmentAll 7 of WakeMed’s Emergency Departments are open 24 hours a day, every day. If your condition is life-threatening or no other level of care is open, visit your nearest location.
  • Virtual Urgent CareAvailable via our mobile app, virtual care is available 24/7 from anywhere in North Carolina. While you can’t get tested for the flu virtually, our board-certified physicians can evaluate you, offer guidance, and write prescriptions for nasty symptoms such as cough.