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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 are to:

  • Stay away from food-prep areas if you’re sick or recovering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and 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, doorknobs 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 such as CVS MinuteClinics and Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care. Combined, these partners provide more than 70 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties and put 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.

 

Sunscreen 101

It’s time to enjoy the sunshine. After all, you deserve it! But don’t forget, your skin deserves some protection. The skin is a living organ system that interacts with the external environment while protecting our internal organs. Thus, it is important to know about proper sun protection for your skin.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for sun protection factor, meaning there is an extra layer of protection that an individual receives from the application of sunscreen. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the recommendation is to use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and labeled as “broad-spectrum SPF.” The American Cancer Society recommends sunscreens with SPF 30 when engaging in outdoor activities.

What exactly do these numbers mean?

A broad-spectrum sunscreen that has SPF 15 means that particular bottle of sunscreen will offer sun protection against both UVA and UVB rays 15x longer than without sunscreen at all.

UVA vs UVB Rays

UVA and UVB rays are two types of radiation from sunlight that, in excess, can be harmful to the skin. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeper than UVB rays and are the ray responsible for skin aging, wrinkling, and tanning. UVB rays damage the outermost layers of the skin and are primarily responsible for sunburns and reddening of the skin.

Which SPF Sunscreen is Right for Me?

When considering which level of SPF to use, it is important to know that an SPF of 30 does not necessarily offer twice the protection of an SPF of 15; while higher SPF sunscreens offer more protection, it is not a linear scale. The higher the SPF the greater percentage of harmful rays are prevented from reddening the skin.

  • SPF 15 protects against 93% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30 protects against 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50 protects against 98% of UVB rays

Applying Sunscreen

Picking the right sunscreen is just as important as applying the sunscreen correctly. If you are going to be using insect repellent and sunscreen, be sure to apply the sunscreen first and wait at least 30 minutes before applying the insect repellent. Apply the sunscreen liberally and be sure to follow the directions listed. To get a sense of how much sunscreen you should apply, the recommended amount is at least two tablespoons.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, no sunscreen is waterproof. Some sunscreens may have water or sweat resistance. These water/sweat resistant sunscreens should detail a specific amount of time the labeled SPF level of protection lasts for an individual when swimming or sweating. Finally, it is important that you reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, regardless of the level of SPF.

Protective Clothing

Protective clothing is another way to ensure your skin is optimally protected against UV radiation. Long sleeve shirts, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats protect against just that. If the clothes are tightly woven or dark, it’s even more protection. Sunglasses with lenses that protect 100% against UVA and UVB radiation are also strongly recommended. If you have a history of skin cancer or increased risk of getting sunburns, protective clothing is very important and should be worn whenever exposed to sunlight. These clothes help to keep rays from harming skin.

How to Treat Sunburn

Sunburn is defined as a sign of skin damage from spending too much time outdoors without wearing a protective sunscreen, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. If you find yourself with a sunburn, taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen or aspirin) and applying cold compresses or ice packs aids the pain relief. Additionally, taking cool baths or showers frequently may help. After the bath, gently pat yourself dry but leave some water on the skin and apply a moisturizer. The use of moisturizing creams and lotions (including aloe) will also help prevent drying and cracking. If a blister does form, leave it intact for a faster healing process. If you have a sunburn, stay out of the sun for a few days in a cool, shaded, or indoor space and drink plenty of water.

Sun poisoning is when an itchy, red rash has appeared on the skin after being exposed to sunlight, also known as a sun allergy. It may take only minutes for signs of sun poisoning to appear after exposure to the sun. These signs are redness, itchiness/pain, elevated red patches, blisters, scaling, or even bleeding.

Summer is a great time to relax and have some fun in the sun. Keeping your skin properly protected allows for you to enjoy this time frequently and safely. If you are in the sun often, it is beneficial to do self-screenings at least once a month to make sure everything is all right.

Know Where to Go When it’s Not Life Threatening

Go to your primary care physician, family doctor, or pediatrician if you have concerns about your sunburn, or for questions regarding over-the-counter remedies, contact your primary care physician.

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

MinuteClinics 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.

When to Go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room

In some cases, sunburns can be bad enough to require advanced care. Go to urgent care or the ER if your symptoms include:

  • Severe pain
  • Severe blistering
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Faintness or dizziness

Those with a severe burn who also suffer from a serious health condition – such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes – should seek emergency care.

If you’re not sure if which type of care you need, call your family doctor or HealthConnection at 404-778-7777 and speak to an Emory nurse for assistance.

To learn more about getting the right care at the right time and in the right place, or to find locations, visit emoryhealthcare.org/wheretogo.

Drowning and Water Safety

Summer is finally here and it’s time to spend some time in the water cooling off whether it’s at the pool, lake, or beach. As we’re enjoying this weather near the water, injuries are not the first thing many people think of, but it should be. It is important to make sure that you, your family, and friends are staying safe in the water and not increasing your risk of drowning.

You may be thinking, “This won’t happen to me,” or “I know how to swim, I’ll be fine.” While you or others may be excellent swimmers, it only takes a few seconds for an individual to drown. It is important to confirm that everyone in the group has basic swimming skills and to have a designated supervisor while at any body of water, especially if there is not a lifeguard on duty.

Who is at risk of drowning?

There are many factors that may increase a person’s risk of drowning. Here are the five most common risk factors as outlined by the CDC.

  • Swimming Ability: There are many adults and adolescents who lack swimming ability but still enjoy being near the water. Not being able to swim makes drowning an unfortunate, but more likely, reality.
  • Barriers: Without fencing, or other barriers to bodies of water, children may wander into a pool area and could fall into the water.
  • Supervision: Drowning may take place quickly and quietly anywhere that there is water. It’s important to pay attention constantly to people around any body of water.
  • Location: Depending on the age of the individual, the likelihood of drowning may change with the location. For example, children under four have a higher likelihood to drown at in home swimming pools, while those fifteen and older tend to drown in natural water settings.
  • Alcohol: The use of alcoholic substances is involved in nearly 25% of an Emergency Department visit due to drowning, and 70% of deaths due to recreational use of water.

What are some tips to keep drowning from happening?

  • Learn CPR: Mere seconds can be the difference between greatly improving and influencing the outcome of a drowning incident.
  • Always swim with a buddy!
  • “Water wings” and other toys designed for water are no substitute for a life-jacket. Wearing one greatly reduces the risk of drowning.
  • If you are going to the beach, know what each of the different colored flags indicates (these may vary by beach) and obey all warnings.

What to do if someone is drowning

  • Use anything around you to try and bring the drowning victim in from the water without putting yourself at risk.
  • Call others for help.
  • Lie the victim on their back, and move their head and chin backward to try and clear their airway.
  • Pinch their nose as their head is tilted backward and breathe into their mouth with yours to function as a rescue breath.
  • After five rescue breaths, begin performing CPR.
  • After performing CPR for at least one minute, and if no one around you has already called 911, do so.
  • Continue performing CPR until the ambulance arrives.

What is dry drowning?

“Dry drowning” or “secondary drowning” is when a serious amount of deterioration takes place after nearly drowning and also after a period of appearing relatively fine. This is when an individual essentially inhales water through the nose and/or mouth. The water provokes a spasm that impacts breathing, by slowly closing the airway (this is different from drinking a lot of water, as the process the body absorbs it is different).

Symptoms of dry drowning

Although symptoms of dry drowning typically occur after a water incident, symptoms can also appear up to 24 hours after a near-drowning experience. It is important to watch for these signs:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Cold or bluish skin
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Vomiting

Know Where to Go

If an individual is coughing profusely, sputtering and showing other signs of respiratory distress as listed above, it is best to contact your healthcare professional, call 911 or go to an emergency department immediately.

Or call HealthConnection at 404-778-7777.