What is the Flu?
Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
What Should I do if I have the Flu?
The Jefferson County Department of Health and the Birmingham-area medical community urge residents with minor flu or flu-like symptoms to refrain from going to hospital emergency departments to avoid overstressing the community’s resources. Mild cases of the flu usually do not require a hospital visit. In most cases, the best way to treat the flu is to rest at home, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid contact with other people.
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. There is no need to go to the emergency room if you have mild symptoms.
What are Serious Symptoms of the Flu?
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
How can I Protect Myself from the Flu?
- Get the flu vaccine if you are 6 months of age and older
- Cover your cough and sneeze
- Wash your hands
- Clean living and working areas
- Avoid crowds
- Stay home from work or school if you are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Birmingham area hospitals are at or over normal patient capacity due in large part to the number of patients presenting with seasonal influenza-like symptoms. Local emergency departments and outpatient clinics are also seeing very high volumes of patients. This is not a pandemic flu situation, but a major seasonal flu situation. This is happening nationwide and not just Birmingham. Patients who do visit an emergency department or outpatient clinic should be aware of long wait times. All local hospitals are taking necessary steps to ensure that patients receive appropriate care.