Taking Simple Precautions Can Keep You and Your Family Healthy During Flu Season

By: Donald M. Yealy, M.D, UPMC's Chair of Emergency Medicine

The 2012-2013 flu season is already worse than we’ve seen for several years, and emergency department visits and hospitalizations related to the flu are up at UPMC by at least 10 percent compared with last year.  The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionsays 41 states have reported widespread flu activity with the peak of the flu season still to come.
Donald M. Yealy, M.D.
So what should you do to protect yourself or to get help if you’re already feeling those dreaded symptoms of fever, aches, cough or nausea? 
First, it is not too late to get a flu shot. This preventive measure is critical for the very young, the elderly and pregnant women. See your doctor for the vaccine or visit an urgent care center or pharmacy. Vaccine supplies are plentiful, and some insurance companies cover the full cost of the shot.  Contrary to a common myth, a flu shot will not give you the flu.
Another simple thing is to remember to wash your hands often  – whether you are sick or not. This remains the best prevention against spreading or acquiring the flu and many infections. 
If you feel like you are coming down with the flu, drink fluids and rest.  Most importantly, stay home if you can. The flu is highly contagious, and you can easily infect others and delay your recovery.
Pregnant women, the elderly, very young children and those with serious medical conditions like kidney or heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at a higher risk for the flu or complications – those people should seek care from their doctor or the emergency department if feeling severe symptoms.
Most people, however, will not need a doctor when they have the flu.  Drugs like Tamiflu offer little value, and flu tests do not usually aid care. If flu symptoms persist and start getting worse instead of better after the first three days, contact your doctor,  visit one of the UPMC Urgent Care centersor try an eVisit – an electronic doctor’s visit – on UPMC HealthTrak.  We’ve got lots of convenient ways to take care of you, but please start by taking care of yourself.