Got chills? Are they multiplying? Then it’s probably the flu calling for you. Dallas County Health and Human Services is predicting a busy flu season this year. If you want to pop out and get a flu shot before reading on, we don’t blame you. While it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to fully kick in, you will have some protection immediately and it could help lessen symptoms and duration if you do get sick.
As if to underscore the DCHHS’ projection, Medical City Plano reported 420% more flu patients in their emergency room in December than in November — and most of those were seen over the course of just one week.
“Typically, flu levels decline during school breaks.” said Russell McDonald, MD, a Medical City Plano pediatrician. “But this year, we saw a big increase over the holidays, which means it will probably spike again with kids back in school.”
Another virus, RSV, continues to spike as well. RSV is responsible for many common respiratory conditions, including colds, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia and croup.
“RSV is even more contagious than the flu,” Dr. McDonald said. “So when you have kids in preschools and day cares, if one child comes down with RSV, pretty soon everyone’s got it.”
Curtis Johnson, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City North Hills, agrees that the number of flu patients is unusually high following winter break.
“This is pretty early to start seeing a spike in flu cases so soon after the holidays, but that just means the 18 or so patients we’ve already seen this week are going to escalate even more,” he said.
The surge in local flu cases has also been noted at Medical City Denton and aligns with the national spike, according to chief hospitalist Jaya Kumar, MD. Each year, more than 200,000 adults and children are hospitalized from the flu. Dr. Kumar says the best way to prevent the flu — a contagious respiratory illness with symptoms such as fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, body aches and fatigue — is for everyone to get the flu vaccine.
Flu can be serious and lead to hospitalization and even death.
“We admitted three people to the hospital recently with flu complications, including dehydration, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In addition to the flu vaccine, I also recommend that people cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, stay away from people who are sick and practice good handwashing hygiene.”
Think you’re an influenza expert? See how many of these can you answer correctly.
Q: Should I go to the ER with flu symptoms?
A: Maybe. Seek emergency care within the first 48 hours if you:
- Are having trouble breathing
- Are vomiting excessively and can’t keep anything down
- Have a lung disease like asthma or COPD
- Are under one year of age or over 65
- Have a compromised immune system, such as from chemo or steroid therapy
- Are pregnant
Eric Pearlman, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City McKinney, explains more about flu symptoms and the ER.
Q: Can you get the flu from a flu shot?
A: No. The virus in flu shots is inactivated and can’t make you sick. It’s possible to come down with the flu soon after getting a flu shot, but that can be for one of two reasons:
- You were exposed to the flu before your flu shot took effect (it takes about two weeks to provide full protection)
- You caught a strain of the flu that wasn’t included in your vaccine
Q: Do I need to get a flu shot if I got one last year?
A: Yes. For two reasons:
- Immunity decreases over time (especially in older people)
- The current strains of the virus may be different from last year’s
Q: Can I get a flu shot if I already have a cold AND I’m allergic to eggs?
A: Yes. Unless you have a fever over 101°F or another significant illness, you can get a flu shot before your cold symptoms are gone. Likewise, new CDC guidelines state that flu shots are safe for people with egg allergies.
Q: Can’t I just skip the flu shot and get antibiotics if I get the flu?
A: No. Antibiotics fight bacterial infections, not viruses. If your flu gets serious, it can cause bacterial infections such as pneumonia, in which case you may be prescribed an antibiotic.
Q: Should I feed a cold and starve a fever?
A: Yes and no. Feed your cold AND your fever with plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration, healthy foods to keep your body well-nourished and lots of rest. And yes, a big bowl of chicken soup is just what the doctor ordered.
Q: If I get a flu shot, is that all I need to do to avoid getting sick?
A: Definitely not! Stay at least 6 feet away from sick people and wash your hands frequently and correctly. If you do get sick, protect others by covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
It’s not too late to get your flu shot. There are 28 convenient CareNow locations throughout DFW where you can get one fast. But if the flu comes calling for you, one of our many Medical City Healthcare ER locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
Visit FastERTX.com to find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you.