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Flu First Aid  

Sick Child with Swine FluAt least 22 million Americans have come down with the H1N1 swine flu since the virus first surfaced in April and approximately 3,900 people have died, including an estimated 540 children, federal health officials reported Thursday. 

  

The figures on pediatric deaths underscore the existing evidence that the H1N1 swine flu poses a particular risk to children and young adults who don't seem to have immunity to the new strain of disease. Seasonal flu, on the other hand, typically poses a much greater risk to people aged 65 and older. The statistics released Thursday only run through mid-October. 

  • An estimated 8 million children under age 18 have been infected by the swine flu.  
  • An estimated 98,000 Americans have been hospitalized by the swine flu, including 36,000 children.  
  • Among adults, there have been 12 million cases on infection, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths.  
  • Among those 65 and older, there have been 2 million infections, 9,000 hospitalizations and 440 deaths.  

Flu Symptoms, Flu Facts Influenzaand Flu Treatment 

The flu is a contagious infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by the influenza virus. 

Whether it's swine flu, bird flu or just the plain ol' flu, the treatment is the same. 

  

The Good News: Statistics show that if you are healthy when you get the flu, you're likely going to live (even if you get swine flu). The people who get the sickest from the flu and run the risk of serious illness or death are those who had other medical problems before they got the flu. 

  

Flu Facts: 

Lots of folks think of vomiting and diarrhea when they hear "flu." Influenza -- aka "the flu" -- is a respiratory disease and primarily affects the lungs, not the stomach. People can certainly feel bad enough to get nausea, vomiting and diarrhea from the flu, especially folks with H1N1, but it's primarily a disease of the lungs. 

  

The flu is a virus. Antibiotics do not work on the flu (or on the common cold, for that matter). Antiviral medications like Tamiflu can shorten the illness if they are taken early enough. 

  

When our bodies are exposed to the flu virus, our immune systems build antibodies to fight it. Those antibodies stay in our system and will help fight off new exposures. That's what the flu shot does; it gives your immune system a heads-up to build antibodies before you need them. 

  

Flu Symptoms: 

The flu usually begins abruptly, with a fever between 102 and 106 °F. (An adult typically has a lower fever than a child.) The fever usually lasts for a day or two, but can last 5 days. The flu is like a cold with a really bad attitude. The symptoms are similar, but come on stronger for the flu: 

  • Fever 
  • Coughing, especially coughing up phlegm 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Runny nose 
  • Sore throat 
  • Headache 
  • Body aches 
  • Fatigue 
  • Chills

Somewhere between day 2 and day 4 of the illness, the "whole body" symptoms begin to subside, and respiratory symptoms begin to increase.

  

The most prominent of the respiratory symptoms is usually a dry, hacking cough. Most people also develop a sore throat and headache. Runny nose (nasal discharge) and sneezing are common. 

  

These symptoms (except the cough) usually disappear within 4 - 7 days. Sometimes, the fever returns. The cough and tiredness usually last for weeks after the rest of the illness is over. 

  

Other symptoms may include: 

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Muscle aches and stiffness 
  • Stuffy, congested nose 
  • Sweating 
  • Worsening of underlying illness, such as asthma or heart failure

The most common way to catch the flu is by breathing in droplets from coughs or sneezes. Less often, it is spread when you touch a surface such as a faucet handle or phone that has the virus on it, and then touch your own mouth, nose, or eyes.

  

Symptoms appear 1 - 7 days later (usually within 2 - 3 days). Because the flu spreads through the air and is very contagious, it often strikes a community all at once, causing an epidemic illness. This creates a cluster of school and work absences. Many students become sick within 2 or 3 weeks of the flu's arrival in a school. 

  

Tens of millions of people in the  United States get the flu each year. Most get better within a week or two, but thousands become sick enough to be hospitalized. About 36,000 people die each year from complications of the flu. 

  

Sometimes people confuse colds and flu, which share some of the same symptoms and typically occur at the same time of the year. However, the two diseases are very different. Most people get a cold several times each year, and the flu only once every few years. 

  

Flu Treatment 

The best treatment for flu is prevention. Talk to your doctor about whether you should get a flu shot. Vaccination may keep you from getting the flu at all, and if you don't get sick, you can't bring the flu home to infect the rest of the people in your home. 

  

Mom knew her stuff when it came to flu treatment: chicken soup, broth, juice and water are all great when you have the flu. The other thing your body needs when it has the flu is rest. So, get lots of rest and plenty of fluids.  

  

Most importantly, if you have the flu you should stay away from others. Stay at home until your temperature is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit -- without taking Tylenol or Motrin -- and then stay home another 24 hours once your fever is gone. 

  

Listen to public health officials. Honor school closures and other instructions to avoid spreading the virus further. 

  

If you do have to interact with others, follow these tips (also directly from Mom):  

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw it away (no handkerchiefs).
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. 
  • If you can't wash up, alcohol-based hand cleaners are OK. 
  • Keep your hands out of your face; touching your eyes, nose or mouth spreads germs 

The information provided on this page should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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