ProMedica family and sports medicine physician Matthew Rennels, DO, has seen an increase of flu cases at his practice in recent weeks. The uptick of flu cases has also contributed to an influx of patients seeking treatment at local Toledo area hospitals.
“We’ve hit the influenza peak and it’s making all those minor illnesses a little bit worse,” explains Dr. Rennels. “All those people with underlying medical illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are also a little more susceptible.”
The flu is a respiratory tract infection that can affect your whole body. It usually starts abruptly with fever, tiredness, headache, muscle aches, sore throat and a cough. Many illnesses begin with flu-like symptoms, so it can be hard to determine if it’s the influenza virus that caused you to be sick (this infographic on cold vs. flu symptoms may help).
If you think you may have the flu, Dr. Rennels recommends avoiding hospital or emergency care treatment unless medically necessary. “I recommend that patients talk with their primary care provider to get a recommendation on where to go. Use urgent care if needed and if that’s not available, then the emergency room if absolutely necessary, but that primary care office should be able to direct you to the best place for the symptoms you have.”
Treatment for the flu depends on your symptoms and other factors, including your overall health and any other health conditions that could make the sickness more severe. Rest and increased fluids are important and certain medicines may help relieve you of symptoms such as congestion, aches and fever.
Dr. Rennels says flu season may last through the end of February or even into March, depending on the weather, as the flu virus is most easily passed around in the colder weather. To avoid contracting or spreading the flu, wash your hands well and often, and keep them away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Don’t share personal items such as drinking cups or toothbrushes. A person with the flu can spread the virus from the first day (before having symptoms) to up to seven days after becoming sick. Finally, it’s not too late to get a flu shot, which reduces your risk of getting the flu.