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 (doorknobs, 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 you 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 degrees Fahrenheit

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 MinuteClinic, Peachtree Immediate Care and Smartcare® 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 degrees Fahrenheit 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 the 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 very 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 CVS MinuteClinic Strategy. Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta Georgia.

Do You Know the Difference Between the 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 the 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 and Control 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 cough and sneezes
  • Wash your hands
  • Try not to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you touched or those who may be sick around you
  • 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.

Learn more about where to go for the right care for the common cold and flu or call 404-778-7777.

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 MinuteClinic locations throughout Atlanta, as well as Peachtree Immediate Care and SmartCare™ Urgent Care centers for a total of nearly 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 MinuteClinic, Peachtree Immediate Care or SmartCare® 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 to 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.

10/17/17 Medicare 101 Live Chat Transcript

The Annual Open Enrollment period for 2018 Medicare coverage began on October 15th. Our live chat was a great opportunity to learn the A, B, Cs…and Ds…of Medicare. Topics included:

  • Overview of Medicare Parts A, B, C and D
  • Explaining Medicare Advantage
  • Differences between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage
  • Turning 65 and applying for Medicare
  • How Medicare works if you’re turning 65 but don’t plan to retire

The live chat had a good turnout and the transcript is now available below.

Live Chat Transcript

Oct 17, 11:58 AM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Hi everyone, we’ll get started shortly!

Oct 17, 12:01 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Welcome everyone! Thanks for joining us today for our web chat about Medicare 101.

Oct 17, 12:01 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Please note that all questions are moderated before appearing in the stream, so you may not see yours appear right away, but we will do our best to answer all your questions today.

Oct 17, 12:02 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): We received some questions that were submitted in advance of the chat, so we’ll get started by answering a few of those first.

Oct 17, 12:03 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Q: How does my current health impact my Medicare coverage?

Oct 17, 12:04 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): A: Your health will have no bearing on your eligibility for Medicare Part A and Part B. If your question pertains to joining a Medicare plan, there are different criteria to follow. If joining a Medicare Advantage Plan, the only qualifying health question is whether you have End Stage Renal Disease (kidney failure). Otherwise, if you live in a Medicare Advantage plan’s service area, and you have Medicare Part A and Part B, you cannot be declined coverage due to health.

Oct 17, 12:04 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): If you are considering a Medicare supplement plan, each Medicare supplement has a different set of health-related questions you must answer in order to qualify for coverage. If you are joining a Medicare supplement plan within 6 months of going onto Medicare Part B, you are in the Medicare supplement open enrollment period, and cannot be declined coverage.

Oct 17, 12:04 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): For more information on these important Medicare enrollment dates or to compare the Medicare plans accepted by Emory Healthcare, please call the Emory Medicare Insurance Helpline serviced by MedicareCompareUSA at (855) 256-1501. You can also learn more by visiting www.EmoryHealthcare.org/medicare.

Oct 17, 12:05 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): The next question we received ahead of time was: How do I sign up for Medicare and when do my benefits begin?

Oct 17, 12:07 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): You can sign up for Medicare by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), online at ssa.gov/medicare or by going to your local Social Security office.

Oct 17, 12:08 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): When you’re first eligible for Medicare, you have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B. This window of time can also be used to choose a Medicare insurance plan (such as a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug plan).

Oct 17, 12:09 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Generally, if you choose to activate your Medicare benefits when you first become eligible to do so, you will become Medicare eligible on the first day of the month you turn 65 (it may be up to 2 months later if you wait to sign up for Medicare on the month of your 65th birthday, so plan ahead). There are some exceptions to this, including but not limited to becoming Medicare eligible due to disability or having your Medicare coverage through your spouse

Oct 17, 12:11 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Next question: What is the difference between a Medicare Supplement and a Medicare Advantage plan?

Oct 17, 12:12 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Good question. The first thing to understand is that a Medicare supplement is designed to fill the gaps of original Medicare. Original Medicare is made up of Medicare Part A (Hospitalization) and Medicare Part B (Medical Services). Original Medicare has deductibles and co-insurance the beneficiary is responsible for. Original Medicare also does not cover prescription medications. This is why many people on original Medicare purchase a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) to fill the gaps of Medicare…

Oct 17, 12:12 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): …and they may also purchase a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Medicare Part D).

A Medicare Advantage plan is a private Medicare Plan that has a contract with the government (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). The Medicare Advantage Plan benefits must be at least comparable to original Medicare.

Oct 17, 12:13 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): In addition, many Medicare Advantage Plans feature additional benefits beyond what is covered by original Medicare, and Medicare Advantage Plans often include a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Medicare Part D) for no additional charge.

Oct 17, 12:13 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): There is no one Medicare insurance solution that is right for everyone. For more information visit EmoryHealthcare.org/medicare, attend an Emory Medicare Educational Seminar or call the Emory Healthcare Medicare Insurance Helpline, serviced by MedicareCompareUSA at (855) 256-1501.

Oct 17, 12:14 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Let’s move on to your live questions now!

Oct 17, 12:15 PM
Guest7028 (Guest): How much does Medicare cost?

Oct 17, 12:19 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): There are two parts of Medicare, hospital, Part A and medical services, Part B. Part A, you earn these benefits by contributing to Medicare through payroll deduction for 10 years. Part B, there’s an additional monthly premium, usually $134 a month or more, depending on income.

Oct 17, 12:21 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Most people with Medicare either join a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Supplement Plan. These plans generally have an additional monthly premium beyond the Medicare Part B premium. Lastly, there are Medicare perspiration drug plans that are either purchased separately or they are included in the Medicare Advantage coverage.

Oct 17, 12:22 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): *prescription*

Oct 17, 12:22 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): For more information, please call our Medicare Insurance Helpline at 1-855-256-1501, M–F, 9am_7pm EST.

Oct 17, 12:23 PM
Guest5996 (Guest): What’s the difference between an HMO & PPO & regular Medicare? Do you find your physician office find one option easier to work with than another?

Oct 17, 12:24 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): A Medicare Advantage PPO refers to a “Preferred Provider Organization”. Under a PPO, members receive the lowest member cost-sharing when they use a plan’s network providers. Under a PPO, a member is permitted to go outside of the network, however, member cost-sharing is generally higher. Alternatively, a Medicare Advantage HMO refers to a “Health Maintenance Organization.”

Oct 17, 12:25 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Under an HMO, members must generally use network providers for all health care services other than emergency and urgent care situations. HMOs also normally require a referral from member’s Primary Care Provider before seeing any Specialists.

However, there are some HMOs that include a “Point of Service” benefit that enables the member to also see non-network providers in certain instances.

Oct 17, 12:29 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): From a healthcare provider perspective, the most important thing is choosing a Medicare plan that your provider is contracted with. The choice of an HMO or PPO comes down to the consumer’s specific needs and preferences. By choosing either an HMO or PPO that your physician and hospital is contracted with will allow you to achieve the best coordination of care and the lowest out of pocket expense.

Oct 17, 12:33 PM
tammy (Guest): How does Medicare automatic renewal work?

Oct 17, 12:34 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): tammy – Can you please clarify if your question pertains to Medicare coverage or your Medicare insurance.

Oct 17, 12:34 PM
Jan (Guest): Does medicare pay for home health aids?

Oct 17, 12:39 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Based on your physicians suggested treatment plan, if home health is necessary for rehabilitation, Medicare generally covers the cost of home health. However, the key to that is a consumer needs to be recuperating from an illness or injury, as Medicare home health does not cover chronic health needs in perpetuity.

Oct 17, 12:42 PM
AnnaZ (Guest): How do I report medicare fraud?

Oct 17, 12:43 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Call 1-800-Medicare or the Office Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477.

Oct 17, 12:46 PM
JJ21 (Guest): I’m disabled. When can I get Medicare?

Oct 17, 12:49 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Eligibility for Medicare due to disability requires the individual to be receiving social security disability benefits for 24 months or have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Oct 17, 12:51 PM
Guest9622 (Guest): can i have cobra and medicare at the same time?

Oct 17, 12:51 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): If you have COBRA and become Medicare eligible, you should enroll in Part B immediately because you are not entitled to a special enrollment period (SEP) when COBRA ends.

Oct 17, 12:52 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): These questions have been great! We have time for just one more question today.

Oct 17, 12:53 PM
Jan (Guest): Does Medicare cover vision?

Oct 17, 12:56 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): Medicare part B covers some vision care, but not routine vision exams. You are not covered for vision correction such as eyeglasses or contact lenses under Medicare Part B unless you need correction after cataract surgery. Many Medicare Advantage plans provide additional vision care, such as annual eye exams, and in some cases, an annual allowance for prescription eyewear.

Oct 17, 12:58 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): To learn more about Medicare Advantage plans accepted by Emory Healthcare please call 1-855-256-1501 or visit EmoryHealthcare.org/medicare

Oct 17, 12:58 PM
EmoryHealthcare (Admin): That’s all the time we have for today. Thanks so much for joining us and thanks for your questions!

Want to Learn More?

We understand how confusing Medicare can be. There are many different types of Medicare insurance available, including Medicare Advantage, Supplements, and Prescription Drug plans. There are dozens of insurance companies offering Medicare insurance and to further complicate matters, healthcare providers do not accept all Medicare plans.

In coordination with MedicareCompareUSA, we are pleased to offer the Medicare Insurance Helpline; a free and unbiased resource for comparing and enrolling in Medicare plans accepted by Emory Healthcare providers. The Medicare Insurance Helpline gets you connected with Emory Healthcare’s Medicare resources.

For more information, please call toll-free 1-855-256-1501 or visit emoryhealthcare.org/medicare

Kid’s Health: Common back-to-school illnesses and injuries

Kid's Health Going back to school can tax your kid’s health. Catching up with old friends and make new ones can be an exciting time, but one that puts them back in close contact with one another — with a result no one looks forward to: illnesses and injuries.

In the first few months of a new school year, there are lots of germs going around. They’re on desks, keyboards, in the classroom and on the playground where accidents also happen.

Over time, your child will become immune to many infectious diseases. In the meantime, teach him to wash his hands well —and often. If your child does come down with a bug, keep him home from school until he’s fever-free for 24 hours without medicine.

Common kid’s health back-to-school illnesses and injuries include:

  • “Backpack-itis”: Overstuffed backpacks can cause head, neck and shoulder pain as well as lead to bad posture. Use your bathroom scale to figure out what your kid weighs with and without his backpack. Make sure that his locked and loaded backpack doesn’t weigh more than 10% of his weight. Also, make sure your child wears both straps. A lightweight pack with wide straps and a padded back is a good choice.
  • Colds and flu: Colds are very contagious. If your child doesn’t have a fever, it’s probably okay to go to school. It’s important not to spread germs — so teach your kid to cough or sneeze into a tissue—or an elbow—and to wash his hands. When it comes to flu, prevention is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu shot for everyone six months old and up.
  • Impetigo: This skin infection is very contagious. Symptoms include sores and blisters on the face, neck, and hands. Keep any cuts clean and teach your child, not to scratch rashes and bug bites. Thorough hand washing helps prevent the spread of impetigo and also strep throat, which is related.
  • Lice: These tiny bugs live on the scalp, feed on blood and cause itching. Kids usually get lice by being in close contact with someone who has them. To keep your family lice-free, teach your child to avoid head-to-head contact and not to share hats, helmets, hair accessories, towels, or other personal things. Make sure students don’t share cubbies or lockers.
  • Pinkeye: This eye infection, also called conjunctivitis, is easily spread from one kid to the next in school. Signs include bloodshot eyes, itchy and burning eyes, and a yellow or green eye discharge from the eyes. If your child has pinkeye, a prescription for antibiotic eye drops is needed to treat it. Like other contagious diseases, the best prevention is good hand washing.
  • Playground injuries:  Common injuries are fractures, cuts, bruises, and sprains. But dislocations, broken bones and concussions can also happen. Most injuries happen on playground bars or climbers. Make sure the playground is supervised and that your child follows the rules.
  • Strep throat: Strep throat can spread through the student body pretty fast. In addition to a sore throat, symptoms may include a runny nose, high fever, and headache. If untreated, a strep throat could lead to rheumatic fever. It’s important to get a strep test and treat this disease with antibiotics. Teach your child to steer clear of anyone with a sore throat and to wash hands often. Your child should know not to share drinks, spoons, forks, knives or toothbrushes.
  • Stomach flu: This bug isn’t really the flu—but it is a virus and it’s highly contagious. It causes stomachaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Stomach bugs can lead to dehydration. Teach your child to always wash hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Your child should not share drinks, forks, knives, spoons, or toothbrushes.

Know where to go for kid’s health issues

Your pediatrician or family doctor knows your kid’s health the best, but if your doctor isn’t available and you need health care right away or outside of your doctor’s office hours, minute clinics, and urgent Care centers are good choices.

Minute Clinics can treat minor illnesses. Urgent care centers also treat minor illnesses and can perform X-rays and more advanced treatment for kid’s health issues that aren’t life threatening.

Learn more about Emory Healthcare’s MinuteClinic and urgent care partners – Peachtree Immediate Care and SmartCare® Urgent Care. Combined, these partners provide nearly 60 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties — putting the care you need now where you need it, 7 days a week for most of the year.

When to go to the emergency room

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.

If you still aren’t sure, contact your family doctor or call Emory HealthConnection to speak to an Emory nurse at 404-778-7777.