flu

Fighting Flu Symptoms? Know Where to Go to Get the Right Care

Since the flu virus is very contagious and can sometimes cause serious complications like pneumonia, knowing where to go can keep you and your family safe if the flu bug visits your home this season.

First, Know the Symptoms

Flu and cold symptoms can seem similar. While there’s no sure-fire way to tell the difference, one hint that it could be the flu is a very sudden onset of symptoms, such as:

  • Bad cough
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Feeling wiped out
  • Fever with chills
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting

Then, Know If You and Your Loved Ones Are Vulnerable

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who get influenza will recover within a few weeks. But it is possible to develop complications as a result of the flu virus, ranging from mild (such as upper respiratory tract or ear infections) to serious (such as pneumonia or inflammation of the heart).

The flu can hit anyone at any age, but some of us are vulnerable to developing complications, especially:

  • Young children
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease

Next, Know Where to Go

If Needed, Try a Clinic

If you can’t get an appointment at a time that works for you, or your doctor’s schedule is all booked up, you still have options.

The Emory Healthcare Network partners with CVS MinuteClinic locations throughout Atlanta, as well as Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care centers for more than 60 convenient locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding communities. This gives you access 7 days a week for most of the year—including flu season.

Find a CVS MinuteClinic or Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care location near you.

When to Go to the Emergency Room

Emergency departments should be used for just that  . . .  emergencies. The American College of Emergency Physicians defines a medical emergency as any severe health condition that has come on suddenly and may cause a person to think his or her health is in serious jeopardy. But even knowing that, it’s still sometimes difficult to spot the more subtle warning signs (and we’re afraid to be wrong).

Be prepared to head to the nearest emergency room should your child have any of these specific flu symptoms:

  • Bluish skin
  • Fast breathing/trouble breathing
  • Improvement followed by returning fever and worse cough
  • High fever with rash
  • Irritability/not wanting to be held
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting

In addition to the above, go to the ER immediately if your infant has:

  • A lot less wet diapers than normal
  • No tears when crying
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unable to eat

Seek immediate help from an emergency department if you or another adult has any of the following flu symptoms:

  • Abdominal or chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration (thirst, urinating less often, trouble keeping liquids down)
  • Dizziness
  • Flu symptoms improve but return with fever and worse cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

Always be prepared with important medical information for you and your family, should an emergency occur, such as a list of each of your current medications. Also be ready to explain when the symptoms started, how they progressed, how long a fever has lasted, who you’ve been in contact with and any other health concerns.

If you’re not sure, call your family doctor or call the Emory HealthConnection to speak to an Emory nurse at 404-778-7777.

What You Should Know About the Stomach Flu

Everyone on the planet has had or will have stomach flu. Would you be surprised to know that stomach flu isn’t really flu at all? It’s actually a virus (norovirus) — and it’s highly contagious.

Stomach flu spreads from infected feces or vomit. Yuck, right? The best way to protect yourself and your family is for everyone to wash their hands often and well. If you’re changing diapers or cleaning up after a sick kid, clean up after yourself, too.

This bug spreads easily and is often picked up when we touch hard surfaces used by many (door knobs, sink faucets, cutting boards). The best ways to keep things clean and virus-free is to:

  • Stay away from food prep areas if you’re sick or recovering.
  • Wash your hands with soap + warm water—hand sanitizers don’t do as good of a job.
  • Wear gloves to do laundry.
  • Use disinfectant cleaners generously to kill viruses on hard surfaces such as counters, door knobs and light switches.

Stomach Flu Symptoms

With a stomach virus, symptoms come on slowly over one to two days. Norovirus symptoms may include:

  • Cramps or aching belly
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms are similar to food poisoning symptoms. The easiest way to detect the difference is to note whether your symptoms came on fast or if they progressed slowly over a few days. If they hit fast, it could be food poisoning, which is caused by bad bacteria like salmonella.

Getting Better

The good news about stomach flu and food poisoning is they usually run their course in a day or two. But while you’re suffering, it’s important to stay hydrated. Replace the minerals lost through diarrhea and vomiting by drinking fluids that contain electrolytes — just steer clear of sports drinks that have a lot of sugar and salt.

Once you’re feeling better, keep your diet light for a few days with foods that are easy to digest.

Know Where to Go

If you or someone in your family has stomach flu symptoms for more than three days, visit your primary care physician (PCP). Other reasons to see your PCP include:

  • Bloody stool or vomit.
  • Lack of urine or dark urine, which may mean dehydration.
  • Oral temperature of over 101.5 °F.

Your doctor knows you and your family’s health history and can probably see you fast. Another plus to seeing your PCP? A low co-pay.

If a stomach bug strikes after doctor’s office hours or during peak flu time, you can get the care and attention you need at an urgent care center. Learn more about Emory Healthcare Network’s partnerships with organizations like CVS MinuteClinics and Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care. Combined, these partners provide nearly 60 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties and puts convenient care where you need it, 7 days a week and no appointment necessary.

When to Go to the ER

It’s time for the ER if you or someone in your care is suffering with:

  • A temperature over 102 °F for more than 2 days that doesn’t respond to medicine.
  • Severe dehydration (symptoms include dark urine or lack of urine).

If you take your child to the ER, have key information ready for the nurse or doctor. Keep track of when symptoms started, how they progressed, how long a fever or rash has lasted, how often your child has gone to the bathroom, any medications, who they’ve been in contact with and any other health concerns. Bring water, snacks and a toy for your child.

If you’re not sure, call your family doctor or Emory HealthConnection to speak to an Emory nurse at 404-778-7777.

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993 and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as Medical Director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Back-to-School Bugs & Beyond: Know Where to Go

Back to school bugsBack-to-school bugs mean your kids may soon be coming home sniffling, sneezing or showing other signs of battling a “bug.”

Your kid’s classroom can be just the kind of enclosed space that makes a great breeding ground for viruses and bacteria to multiply and spread. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elementary school children catch eight to 12 colds or cases of flu each school year.

Back-to-School Bugs

Back to school brings kids back in touch with lots of other kids. It can be a stressful time, even for kids who have the healthiest immune systems. Children returning to school may be exposed to:

  • Colds, cold sores, coughs
  • Pink eye
  • Stomach bugs

You can prepare your kids for battling any back-to-school bugs by strengthening their immune systems. Here’s how:

  • Get your kids back on a good sleep schedule
  • Boost diets with Vitamin C rich fruits & veggies
  • Make sure they stay hydrated

Healthy Habits

  • Hand washing: The best way for your child to stay healthy at school is to practice good hand washing. Teach your child to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. That’s how you know they’ll be washing for at least twenty seconds. And, your child should use soap. It’s more effective than hand sanitizers.
  • Clean water: Arm your child with a water bottle and teach them this is one thing that should never be shared. Hydration is important, but drinking fountains can be hot zones for germs. They aren’t cleaned and disinfected as often as school bathrooms are. If your child does use the water fountain, they should let the water run before drinking and keep their mouths from touching the fountain.
  • Healthy manners: Teach your child to always cough or sneeze into an elbow.

Allergy Alert

Here in Atlanta, ragweed pollen blooms in August and is at its peak in September. In addition to ragweed, tree pollens can also be blamed for allergies.

If your child suffers from allergies, prepare for back to school by pretreating with allergy medication before the peak of pollen season.

Symptoms of allergies include:

  • Asthma attacks
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy eyes, nose, and scratchy throat
  • Post-nasal drip, runny nose
  • Headache
  • Sneezing

Learn more about allergies here.

Know Where to Go When It’s Not Life Threatening

Primary care physician, family doctor or pediatrician: If your child does come down with a bug or an infection, start out by seeing your pediatrician, family doctor or primary care physician (PCP). They are already familiar with your child and know their health history best.

If you can’t get an appointment at a time that works for you, or your doctor’s schedule is all booked up, don’t stress. You have options.

MinuteClinics and urgent care centers are good alternatives if you need to see a health care provider sooner than you can see your PCP, or if you need care outside of your PCP’s normal office hours. MinuteClinics can treat many minor illnesses and injuries and prescribe medications. Urgent care centers can treat serious, but not life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

When to Go to the Emergency Room

Unfortunately, playground accidents and back-to-school injuries can happen. In addition to bumps and bruises, your child might show signs of an urgent condition. Go to the ER for urgent conditions, including:

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain
  • Fainting, dizziness, weakness or lack mobility
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Broken bones that break through skin
  • Severe or persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Poisoning
  • Head or neck injury
  • Suspected concussion

If you take your child to the ER, have key information ready for the nurse or doctor. Keep track of when symptoms started, how they progressed, how long a fever or rash has lasted, how often your child has gone to the bathroom, any medications, who they’ve been in contact with, and any other health concerns. Bring water, snacks and a toy for your child.

Know Where to Go

Knowing where to go when you’re ill or injured makes a big difference. But it can get confusing. Know where to go to get right care at the right time. Your primary care doctor knows your medical history best, but the Emory Healthcare Network also includes Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinics, hundreds of primary care locations and 6 ERs throughout metro Atlanta. Get the care you need wherever you need it. See our map to find the locations closest to you.

Talk to Our Nurses

If you’re not sure if a trip to the ER is needed, call your family doctor or the Emory HealthConnection where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993 and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as Medical Director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

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Do You Know the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

We’re in the midst of a bad flu season that may last longer than most. But do you know the difference between a cold and the flu? Both are respiratory illnesses that have similar symptoms. Although there is no distinct way to differentiate one from the other, it is important to know the type of symptoms and severity each one can cause. Additionally, special tests can be done within the first few days to determine the type of illness.

Common Cold

  • Symptoms are gradual
  • Slight aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Milder conditions compared to the flu

Flu (Influenza)

  • Symptoms are abrupt
  • Fever/feeling feverish (chills)
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches and fatigue (tiredness)
  • Chest discomfort
  • Some may have diarrhea and vomiting (more common in children)

Just like how the common cold and flu have similar symptoms, they can both be treated with a lot of rest, fluids and over-the-counter medicine. However, the flu must also be treated with prescribed antiviral medicine.

Keeping the Flu and Colds at Bay

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following to avoid getting the common cold or flu:

  • Don’t get too close to people who are sick.
  • If you’re sick, stay at home.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Try not to touch your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you or those who may be sick around you have touched.
  • Practice prevention: get vaccinated – even now it’s not too late, get plenty of sleep, avoid stress, stay well hydrated, and eat nutritious snacks and meals.

Know Where to Go

If you or someone in your family has flu symptoms for more than three days, visit your primary care physician (PCP). Other reasons to see your PCP include:

  • Bloody stool or vomit.
  • Lack of urine or dark urine, which may mean dehydration.
  • Oral temperature of over 101.5°F.

Your doctor knows you and your family’s health history and can probably see you fast. Another plus to seeing your PCP? A low co-pay.

If the flu strikes after doctor’s office hours, you can get the care and attention you need at an urgent care center. The Emory Healthcare Network also includes Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinics. Combined, these partners provide nearly 60 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties and put convenient care where you need it, 7 days a week with no appointment necessary.

When to Go to the ER

It’s time for the ER if you or someone in your care is suffering from:

  • A temperature over 102°F for more than two days that doesn’t respond to medicine.
  • Severe dehydration (symptoms include dark urine or lack of urine).
  • If you take your child to the ER, have key information ready for the nurse or doctor. Keep track of when symptoms started, how they progressed, how long a fever or rash has lasted, how often your child has gone to the bathroom, any medications, who they’ve been in contact with and any other health concerns. Bring water, snacks and a toy for your child.

If you’re not sure, call your family doctor or Emory HealthConnection to speak to an Emory nurse at 404-778-7777.

When to Get a Flu Shot

Get the flu shotIt may be your best chance at preventing the flu—but do you know the best time to get your flu shot?

If you get it too soon, you might not be as well protected. But since it typically takes your body 2 weeks from the time you get the shot to develop immunity, you don’t want to wait too late.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season usually runs from November through the end of April, so it’s best to get the flu shot as early as possible prior to the season. October is a recommended time frame.

Who Needs a Flu Shot?

Everyone’s at risk of being infected with the influenza virus and can spread it to others. That’s why the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against it every year, even if you’ve never had the flu.

If you have a less-developed or compromised immune system, a yearly vaccination is especially important (even critical). Not only are you more likely to get the flu, your body will have a harder time fighting it off or enduring the symptoms should you be infected with the virus. The flu can hit people hard, turn to pneumonia and cause other medical issues.

Flu shots are recommended for almost everyone 6 months and older, but are especially important for:

  • Adults age 65 and over
  • Kids age 6 months to 5 years
  • People with long-term health conditions (asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart or lung disease, HIV, cancer, and more)
  • Transplant recipients
  • Pregnant women

Even the healthiest of people should be vaccinated. If you aren’t convinced you need to protect yourself, consider the need to protect your family, friends, co-workers — even strangers. Some professionals, such as health care personnel, early education childcare workers, and school personnel, are even required to be vaccinated in order to be employed. Should you get the flu, everyone around you is at risk and some won’t be as equipped to fight off the virus as you are.

What’s In the Flu Vaccine?

Many people fear getting a flu shot can actually give them the flu, and some claim to have actually contracted the virus from the vaccination itself. But it simply isn’t possible —the flu vaccine is made of dead flu viruses. Since they’re dead, you can’t catch the flu from them. The flu vaccination can, however, cause side effects like headache, nausea, fever and muscle ache. Since these side effects mimic flu symptoms, people often mistake them for having the flu. But when you have the flu, you’ll know it — your symptoms will be much more severe and longer lasting.

These dead viruses teach our bodies what the flu looks like — so it learns, over time, to fight the illness. This is a process and can take up to 2 weeks for your body to be able to fight it. So, timing your flu shot is important.

When we talk about the flu vaccine, we usually refer to it as “the flu shot.” But in reality, it is also available as a nasal spray, although there is some concern that it isn’t as effective as the shot. Also, if you’re considered high risk for the flu, there is also a high-dosage version of the flu shot available. This offers stronger protection and is usually recommended for those age 65 and older.

Know Where to Go

Your pediatrician or primary care doctor knows your medical history best. But if your doctor isn’t available, or if it’s easier for you to get your flu shot outside of your doctor’s office hours, minute clinics or urgent care centers are good choices for your flu vaccine.
Emory Healthcare Network partners with Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinic. Combined, our urgent care and minute clinic partners provide nearly 60 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties. This puts convenient care where you need it, 7 days a week for most of the year.

Learn more about these partnerships

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993, and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as medical director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and assistant clinical professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

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