For today’s discussion, on when to contact the doctor with influenza signs and symptoms, I am sponsored by Med-IQ. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.
I am excited to work with Med-IQ on the topic of raising awareness around the signs and symptoms of influenza and the importance of talking to your healthcare provider because so many of my readers are affected by the flu each year. It’s so important that we all understand that timing can be so key in influenza’s prevention. With strained hospital systems and ICUs due to the pandemic, this year could be a very bad time to contract influenza!
3 Common Myths about the Flu During a Pandemic
In a non-pandemic time frame, the US has 38 million cases of the flu, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2020, those flu numbers were down due to people staying in their homes to avoid contact with others, however this year more people are going out and mixing it up. In 2021, with a normal flu season anticipated, I think we all need to take flu prevention and treatment very seriously.
Preparing for the Flu in 2021
Given that we are still in a global pandemic that has lead to critical healthcare shortages in ICU beds and medical personnel, I feel the last place I want to end up is having a bad case of the flu for which I must be hospitalized. It makes sense to me to get vaccinated, as I always do, for the flu this year. Typically, that vaccination keeps me from getting the flu or decreases my chances of severe complications from the flu if I do get it.
But I used to wonder, if I do experience signs and symptoms of the flu or an loved one does (whether vaccinated or not), what should I/they do next? Call the doctor? How soon? How do I know if I have covid or the flu? Are there antivirals that I can take?
When to contact the doctor with influenza signs and symptoms?
The influenza signs and symptoms are:
- sore throat
- body aches/chills
- malaise – general feeling under the weather, tired, sluggish
Unfortunately, the signs are symptoms of covid are very similar! One big difference between flu and covid is that with covid, sometimes there is a loss of taste and smell, but there are more similarities between the symptoms of the two than not.
If you experience these influenza signs and symptoms, it’s best for you and your family to contact your health provider right away! Don’t be shocked but the doctor will probably test you for both COVID and influenza, just to be safe. Your provider may put you on antivirals that will lessen the symptoms of influenza, but for antivirals to be most effective, they must be started within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms! So in answer to the question “when to contact the doctor with influenza signs and symptoms?” DO IT within 48 hours (or much less) in order to get the best treatment!
High risk groups for complications from the flu
Oh, and don’t be surprised if your doctor recommends that everyone in the household goes on antivirals, especially if someone within the house is at high risk for complications and hospitalization. I think of it as a extra layer of protection for everyone in my family but especially for people like my 86 year old father.
Who is at high risk for complications from the flu if they aren’t protected by antivirals and vaccines? High risk groups for complications from the flu include young kids (under 5 and especially those under 2), the elderly (65+), pregnant women and those 2 weeks postpartum, and individuals with chronic disease. There are antiviral medications that are safe for all ages, even for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. I really recommend discussing this approach with your health care provider when any member of your household has the flu.
What antiviral medication will work best for you and your family?
It’s always best to ask your provider about the best option for you or your family, taking dosing, treatment length, potential side effects and certain contraindications into consideration. Did you know there are several different antiviral medications available to treat flu:
- two oral medications
- an inhaled medication
- an injectable medication
Flu season this year will be a wild ride but you can better protect yourself and your family with the knowledge of when to contact the doctor with influenza signs and symptoms. Just remember it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider within the first 48 hours, while also considering the risk profile of your household and the antiviral medications available.
I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, to write about Influenza symptoms and treatments. All opinions are my own.