Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Preventing and Treating Influenza

As with many medical issues we are interested in prevention first and treatment second. So, following that approach let’s look at some ways to avoid getting sick in the first place.

We know that health is the result of a number of factors all working together – physical, psychological, and spiritual. When things are out of balance in any of these areas we increase our likelihood of getting sick. It is important to pay attention to basic issues of diet, proper rest, and exercise. We also need to manage the stresses in our life. Stress is a natural part of living, but sometimes it can get to a point that overwhelms us and can contribute to illness. Similarly, our spiritual beliefs and focus contribute to the overall balance resulting in health or illness. So, take the time to pay attention to each of these elements. It can help to prevent or lessen the severity of an illness.

Another important area of prevention is good hand hygiene. Remember to clean your hands regularly. You can use soap and water or one of the alcohol-based hand cleaners available in many stores. Carry a hand cleaner with you when you go out so you can clean your hands regularly and help prevent getting sick. Try to stay out of crowded and congested areas as much as possible. These are high risk areas for the spread of germs, particularly if there is someone who is coughing and not following the basic rule of covering your mouth when you cough.

Next, I would strongly recommend that you get your flu vaccine as a basic step in prevention. If you have not gotten your flu vaccine yet this year, call your primary care physician’s office and schedule it today. Do it right after you finish this article!! Vaccination is one of the most effective measures you can take to prevent the flu. If you don't have a primary care physician, we can help with that. Visit our website, find an office, and schedule an appointment today!

Sometimes despite our best efforts we do get sick. And that is the time to follow some basic rules for taking care of yourself and contacting your primary care provider if you have questions or concerns about your illness. Depending on the nature of your symptoms and other medical conditions you may be asked to make an appointment to be seen. Or, you may be given some recommendations about treatments to try at home first before being asked to go to the office for a visit.

Remember the advice from your mother about chicken soup? Well, that is pretty good advice when it comes to a number of illnesses, including influenza. Along with that bowl of chicken soup remember to stay at home and rest, particularly if you are running a fever and are coughing or blowing your nose frequently. If you are on prescription medications be sure that it is safe for you to take over the counter medications to help reduce your fever or treat your headache or body aches or other symptoms you may have. Your primary care office can help you with specific suggestions for over the counter medications that may help control your symptoms while your body is fighting off the infection.

If it is truly Influenza that you have your primary care provider may recommend one of a number of specific medications approved to treat Influenza. However, if you have a viral illness that is not Influenza then these medications will not help. And, antibiotics are never effective for these viral infections. Antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections. So, you may find that your primary care provider discourages the use of antibiotics when you are ill with a suspected viral illness such as the flu. That is solid medical advice and helps to prevent complications and the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

We hope you stay well – but if you do get sick, your primary care physician’s office is ready to help return you to good health. Together we can work toward the goal of good health.

Joseph A. Cincotta, MD
Medical Director, PinnacleHealth Medical Group


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