The majority of normally healthy people who get the flu virus usually experience mild illness. Staying home, getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated is not only helpful for you, but it also prevents spreading of this highly contagious illness. Medical treatment for this group of people is usually unnecessary. It is a different story for those in high-risk groups.
The shortlist of high-risk individuals includes:
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Children under five years old; especially those under two
- Pregnant women
- New mothers up to two weeks after the birth
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
- People living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
People who have certain health conditions are also at greater risk, including those with:
- Blood disorders
- Chronic lung diseases
- Diabetes mellitus
- Heart disease
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Obesity with a BMI of over 39
- Weakened immune systems
People in a high-risk category should get treatment right away if they have been exposed to the influenza virus or if they have symptoms. Antiviral medication is given to treat influenza in high-risk situations. This medication is not available over the counter.
Treatment with Antivirals
Unlike the antibiotic that treats bacterial infections, antiviral drugs fight against the virus attacking the body. These prescription drugs can be pills, liquid, an inhaled powder or they can be given intravenously. These drugs must be administered early in the cycle of the illness in order to have the best outcome.
Antiviral drugs reduce the severity of the illness, and they can shorten the length of it. Other complications, like pneumonia, can be averted with antiviral medicines. When antiviral drugs are taken within the first two days of the illness, the effectiveness is much better than if given later. Even when given later, antiviral drugs can be helpful for those who are very sick or in a high-risk group.
Flu vaccines are also available for prevention. People 65 and over are encouraged to get vaccinated every year. It is recommended that everyone get an annual flu vaccination, beginning with infants six months old. The effectiveness of the vaccine is impacted by the strain of influenza; however, vaccines help reduce the illness, shortening the length of the illness and preventing complications. In children the vaccines have been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of death.
Get your flu vaccine this year. Make an appointment with Dr. Michael, and he will let you know the best type of vaccine for your situation.