Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Flu (influenza, conventional, and H1N1) facts
- What is influenza?
- What are the causes of the flu?
- What are flu symptoms in adults and in children?
- How is the flu diagnosed?
- What is the key to flu prevention?
- Are there any flu shot or nasal spray vaccine side effects in adults or in children?
- Why should the influenza vaccine be taken every year?
- What are some treatments an individual can do at home for the flu?
- When should a person go to the emergency department for the flu?
- Who should receive the flu vaccine, and who has the highest risk factors? When should someone get the flu shot?
- What is the prognosis (outlook) and complications for patients who get the flu?
- What is the bird (avian) flu?
- Do antiviral agents protect people from the flu?
- Is it safe to get a flu shot that contains thimerosal?
- Where can I find additional information about the flu?
- Slideshow: Finding Relief for Your Cough
- Pictures of Natural Cold & Flu Remedies - Slideshow
- Pictures of 10 Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu - Slideshow
What are some treatments an individual can do at home for the flu?
First, individuals should be sure they are not members of a high-risk group that is more susceptible to getting severe flu symptoms. Check with your physician if you are unsure if you are a higher-risk person. Home care is recommended by the CDC if a person is normally healthy with no underlying diseases or conditions (for example, asthma, lung disease, pregnant, or immunosuppressed).
Increasing liquid intake, warm showers, and warm compresses, especially in the nasal area, can reduce the body aches and reduce nasal congestion. Nasal strips and humidifiers may help reduce congestion, especially while trying to sleep. Some physicians recommend nasal irrigation with saline to further reduce congestion; some recommend nonprescription decongestants. Fever can be treated with over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin and others); read labels for safe dosage. Cough can be suppressed by cough drops and over-the-counter cough syrup. If an individual's symptoms at home get worse, their doctor should be notified.
Learn more about: Tylenol
When should a person go to the emergency department for the flu?
The CDC has recently published guidelines on who should go to the emergency department for flu symptoms and who should not go. The CDC published these guidelines to avoid a crush of people going to the emergency department during the H1N1 flu pandemic and utilizing limited resources needed for true emergency patients such as cardiac or trauma patients and to avoid transmitting the virus to high-risk patients. The CDC guidelines are as follows for children and adults. The CDC urges normally healthy people who get the flu to stay home as the large majority of infected individuals will recover without antiviral medications or other treatments, and staying home should limit the viral spread.
The CDC urges people to seek emergency medical care for a sick child with any of these symptoms:
- 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 cough
The following is the CDC's list of symptoms that should trigger emergency medical care for adults:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Having a high fever for more than three days is another danger sign, according to the WHO, so the CDC has also included this as another serious symptom.
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