Tis the Season for Colds and Flu
Jan 10, 2014 08:51AM ● Published by tina
Sponsored by E-Care Emergency Centers
By Dr. Josh Prickett, M.D., Medical Director of North Tarrant E-Care Emergency Centers
As families in Southlake kick off the New Year, many will find an unwelcome guest in their midst – the flu. December through February is considered “prime time” for seasonal influenza and there have already been 21 flu-related deaths reported in North Texas. Fortunately, local physicians, urgent care centers and Southlake schools have been making preparations to help your family avoid the flu.
According to Karen Flexer, head nurse with at Carroll Senior High, the school district sponsored its annual flu shot clinic back in late October to get a jump on flu season. Southlake Carroll schools use posters to remind teachers and students about correct hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer.
Doctors agree that getting immunized against the flu seems to be the best way to stay well. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), even if the flu has been active among the local population already this season, immunization will provide protection. January or February may be the most active times for influenza outbreaks, but flu season can extend as late as May.
Currently, the CDC shows widespread influenza-like illness in Texas, specifically identifying influenza A (H1N1) and influenza B. The CDC offers an interactive map showing the spread of flu cases in the U.S. on the FluView. The most common flu strain being treated in North Texas is H1N1, according to the Denton County Health Department, and this strain has been linked the flu deaths in our area.
Do You Have a Cold or Flu?
When illnesses begin to spread during this type of year in Southlake, it is sometimes difficult to tell if the culprit is influenza or the “common cold”. All are respiratory illnesses, which are caused by different viruses. Many of the symptoms reported can seem similar. Resist hasty self-diagnosis, however, as it’s best to see a physician who can accurately diagnose the cause of your illness. Typically, the flu is considered more serious than a cold.
Here’s a breakdown of typical symptoms possible:
- Headache and Muscle Aches
- Fever and Chills
- Dry Cough
- Extreme Exhaustion
- Sneezing or Nasal Congestion
- Occasional Diarrhea
- Children may experience a high fever up to 104F, often accompanied by vomiting and stomach pain.
- Symptoms come on suddenly and last 7-10 days, but the dry cough and fatigue may linger. Patients are typically contagious for 5-7 days after symptoms appear.
- Sore Throat
- Sneezing and Runny Nose
- Mild Fatigue
- Symptoms develop over 1-4 days after infection, and usually peak for about three days. Congestion may linger for a week or more.
It is important to visit a physician or urgent care clinic immediately after developing flu-like symptoms. If the doctor can diagnose influenza early – usually within the first 48 hours – antiviral medications may be given prescribed to help shorten the length and lessen the severity of the flu. Ask your doctor if antiviral meds are right for you.
Those benefits can be especially important for patients in the “high-risk” categories: those age 65 or older and people with chronic health problems such asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS. These patients are at risk for serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia.
By following your doctor’s recommendations for immunization against the flu and taking preventative health measures at home, work and school, Southlake families will be more likely to enjoy a healthy and happy year in 2014.
For more information about the flu, visit the E-Care Emergency Center blog.
Josh Prickett, MD, is currently medical director for North Tarrant location of E-Care Emergency Center in North Richland Hills. Dr. Prickett graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School and has been practicing emergency care in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Texas since 1989. He has been married to his wife Carin for 29 years. They have a son Jonathan, a daughter Whitney, and a son-in-law John. Dr. Prickett and his family are active at Gateway Church in Southlake and love being a part of the Southlake community.