October 2, 2009

What do I do if I think I have the flu, H1N1 or seasonal?

What do I do if I think I have the flu, H1N1 or seasonal?

If you are sick with flu-like illness (fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea) the CDC recommends that you stay home and away from others for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine), except to get medical care or for other necessities.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Throw your used tissue away, then clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

Use your best judgment about going to your doctor, said Titus Daniels, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Medicine. Don't go just to get tested.

“There is no need to go to the emergency room or your physician if you are only mildly ill, though if you are in a high-risk group that includes infants and those with underlying diseases, you may wish to call your doctor for advice,” he said.

The emergency warning signs in children are: fast breathing or trouble breathing; bluish skin color; not drinking enough fluids; not waking up or interacting; being so irritable that he or she does not want to be held; a return of fever and cough following improvement of flu-like symptoms; fever with rash.

Warning signs for adults are: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; pain or sudden pressure in chest or abdomen; sudden dizziness; confusion; severe or persistent vomiting.

If you are a health care worker and are experiencing flu-like symptoms, don't report to work.

To help guide your decision, Vanderbilt's Occupational Health offers a “flu tool” online, a series of questions with work and treatment recommendations. If you are a Medical Center employee, visit http://occupationalhealth.vanderbilt.edu/ and click on “occupational health flu tool.”