By Marichelle B. Cirunay, BSN,RN Infection Preventionist, Hebrew Health Care
A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
A cough and/or sore throat
A runny or stuffy nose
Headaches and/or body aches
Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Do I have the flu or a cold?
The flu and the common cold have similar symptoms. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them. Your health care provider can give you a test within the first few days of your illness to determine whether or not you have the flu.
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense with the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.
When should I seek emergency medical attention?
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
If you have been diagnosed with the flu, you should stay home and follow your health care provider’s recommendations. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about over-the-counter and prescription medications to ease flu symptoms and help you feel better faster.
You can treat flu symptoms with and without medication.
Over-the-counter medications may relieve some flu symptoms but will not make you less contagious.
Your health care provider may prescribe antiviral medications to make your illness milder and prevent serious complications.
Your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics if your flu has progressed to a bacterial infection.
Are there ways to treat the flu or its symptoms without medication?
You can treat flu symptoms without medication by:
Getting plenty of rest
Drinking clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, or electrolyte beverages to prevent becoming dehydrated
Placing a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead, arms, and legs to reduce discomfort associated with a fever
Putting a humidifier in your room to make breathing easier
Gargling salt water (1:1 ratio warm water to salt) to soothe a sore throat
Covering up with a warm blanket to calm chills
Dehydration in the elderly is a very common, it happens when the body has lost too much fluid and electrolytes. Severe dehydration in the elderly can be deadly. Seniors who are the most prone to dehydration are those who do not drink a lot of water or who perspire heavily. Also, some medications or illnesses may cause dehydration.
Below are some signs of mild dehydration:
•Dry mouth, dry tongue with thick saliva
•Difficulty passing urine or constipation
•Dizziness that becomes worse on standing
•Urinary tract infections
•Cramping in arms or legs
•Dry, warm skin
•Drinking lots of fluids
•Consuming food and drink with sodium and potassium to restore electrolyte balance:
Symptoms of moderate to severe dehydration:
•Signs and symptoms of mild dehydration become worse
•Poor skin elasticity
•Decreased consciousness/ fainting
•Lack urine output
•Moist, cool extremities (arms, legs, etc.)
•Severe muscle contractions in the arms, legs, stomach, back
•Rapid and faint pulse
•Low blood pressure
•Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and should be treated at the hospital
•Replenishment of water and electrolytes through intravenous therapy or oral rehydration therapy (solution of salts and sugars taken by mouth; this treatment is most often for dehydration caused by excessive diarrhea)
Some tips to avoid dehydration:
•Have an appropriate amount of fluids daily (usually between 6-8 glasses of water will be adequate unless exercise or other strenuous activity is completed or in hot climates)
•Encouraging drinking through using smaller glasses or smaller portions (a third of a glass) in a cup can be less overwhelming for some seniors
•Check body weight regularly, fluctuations of 2-3 lbs per day may indicate irregular fluid intake
•Avoid being in the hot sun for long periods and ensure extra hydration for longer exposure
•Keep a water bottle on hand and try to drink often
•Broths or soups (contain sodium); fruit juice, soft fruits, vegetables (contains potassium) as part of general diet.
July is one of the hottest summer months, where many people go to the beach, have outdoor parties, lay out at their pools, or have barbeques. July is also UV Safety Month.
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States? The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV rays can also damage your eyes and cause wrinkles and blotchy skin. Anyone is at risk for skin cancer; however the risks are higher for individuals with white or light skin with freckles, those with blond or red hair, or have blue or green eyes.
There are many ways to prevent skin cancer, such as staying out of the sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm and wearing sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher. If you are outside make sure you wear long sleeves and a hat to protect exposed skin from UV rays.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), too many Americans engage in unhealthy behaviors such as comfort eating, poor diet choices, using alcohol or smoking to help deal with stress. While common, these unhealthy coping methods may give temporary relief from stress, but actually cause more damage in the long run.
Unhealthy ways of coping with stress
The health consequences of chronic stress are made worse when stress is managed in unhealthy ways. If you practice any of these unhealthy behaviors, it is recommended that you cut back or eliminate these behaviors and adopt healthier strategies to manage stress.
Emotional eating – According to the latest Stress in America survey conducted by the APA, twenty-eight percent of Americans say they turn to food to help alleviate stress or help deal with problems. Comfort eaters report higher levels of stress than average and exhibit higher levels of all of the most common symptoms of stress, including fatigue, lack of energy, nervousness, irritability, and trouble sleeping.
Additionally, comfort eaters are twice as likely as the average American to be obese.
Using alcohol – Using alcohol to deal with stress is never a good idea. Using alcohol, like the use of any drug, can lead to problems of abuse or dependence. If you regularly use alcohol to relieve stress there is a risk that you will require more and more alcohol to get the stress-relieving affect you are seeking. Additionally, using alcohol doesn’t help you think more clearly or problem-solve effectively to find solutions to the problem that is creating the stress in the first place.
Smoking – Just as with emotional eating and using alcohol, smoking does not help solve your problem, it only hides it. The cause of your problem remains. And, the relief from smoking only lasts a short time. Soon your stress returns and you will feel the need to smoke another cigarette. Additionally, smoking actually causes more stress than it relieves. According to the American Heart Association, smoking is the single most alterable risk factor contributing to early death in the U.S.