Important things to know about seasonal flu

Seasonal flu is a serious illness that causes approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year. Federal health authorities report that the 2019-2020 flu season could be the worst in decades.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people 6 months of age and older get vaccinated against influenza. Washing your hands frequently, and coughing and sneezing into a tissue or inside your elbow, will also help you and others be healthy.

Remember that the flu and other flu-like illnesses can spread easily, especially to those whose immune system may be weakened by another medical condition. That’s why we ask hospital staff and visitors to pay close attention to protect the health of those around them. “

Sharon Wright, MD, MPH, senior medical director of infection control / hospital epidemiology at BIDMC

If you experience flu-like symptoms and plan to visit a loved one in the hospital, consider delaying your visit until you feel better. If you are scheduled for an appointment or elective procedure, talk to your health care provider about whether it would be safe to reschedule.

“If you arrive at the medical center with flu-like symptoms, we ask that you obtain and wear a mask, available at all BIDMC entries,” says Wright. “And we thank you in advance for helping us fight the flu.”

Common flu symptoms

Influenza is a contagious respiratory viral infection that usually appears suddenly. Typical symptoms include:

Fever (100ºF or more)


Cough or sore throat

Other possible flu symptoms



Muscle pains

For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

How to prepare before getting sick

Get vaccinated!

It is not too late to get a flu shot. Given the normal duration of the flu season, vaccines are often offered until April 1. Read more about why the flu vaccine is the best defense against the virus.

Stock up on supplies

Having the right supplies at home is useful before someone gets sick. This includes:

  • A digital thermometer
  • Non-aspirin medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Liquids such as water, fruit juice, soups and sports drinks (read more about the health benefits of chicken noodle soup)
  • Alcohol and soap based hand sanitizer gel
  • Easy to digest foods (cookies, oatmeal, rice, etc.)
  • Cleaning supplies, such as household disinfectants, paper towels, garbage bags, etc.
  • The name and phone number of the family doctor.

How to care for someone with the flu

Take care of the fever

  • Administer appropriate anti-fever medications for the person’s age, after consulting a doctor, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin.
  • Keep the room comfortably cool.
  • Make sure they are wearing light clothes.
  • Have them drink liquids, especially water.
  • Consider sponging them with warm water if they have a high fever.

When to call a doctor:

  • A person of any age has a fever for more than 3 days;
  • A person under 3 months has a fever of 100.4 degrees or more;
  • A person aged 3 to 5 months has a fever of 102 degrees or more.

Prevent dehydration

Dehydration can occur with low fluid intake, or with fever, diarrhea or vomiting. To prevent dehydration:

  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water, fruit or vegetable juices, soups and broths; Pedialyte for children.
  • Do not drink caffeine or alcohol.

Reduces body aches and fatigue

Body aches are also a common symptom of the flu. To help reduce body aches, headaches and tiredness, you may want to:

  • Give medications to lower fever. The same medication you give for fever will also help with other symptoms.
  • It helps to change their position in bed when they are awake.
  • Make sure there is silence and calm in the room so they can relax.

Help with a stuffy nose, sore throat and dry cough.

To help with a stuffy nose, sore throat and dry cough, you may want to:

  • Use a clean humidifier, cold steam or steam from a shower or hot bath.
  • Ask anyone who smokes not to smoke in the house.
  • Use breathing strips for people who have trouble breathing through their nose.
  • Use a saline spray or a saltwater rinse in the nose (only for older children and adults).
  • Make the sick person feel or keep their head elevated to help reduce congestion. Mattresses and crib beds can be raised slightly.
  • Gargle with salt water several times a day to help reduce a sore throat or cough. To make salt water, mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water.

For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

When should you call a doctor?

If you are pregnant or have a health problem such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, it is important that you call your doctor when the first symptoms of the flu appear. Your health condition may get worse with the flu.

Seek medical attention if someone …

  • He has a fever that lasts more than three days.
  • You have a fever or cough that goes away for 24 hours or more and then comes back.
  • You have a fever with a stiff neck, very bad headache, severe sore throat, an earache or a rash.
  • You have less urine or dark urine.
  • You have green, brown, or bloody mucus that appears when you cough.
  • You have severe vomiting or vomiting for a long time.
  • He is very picky or sleepy (babies and children).
  • You have other unusual symptoms or concerns.
  • It hasn’t improved after a week.


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center


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