The national media has been abuzz with stories about the severity of this year’s flu season and local media reports that North Carolina has not been spared from the flu. Listening to all the sniffles and sneezing around Leesville High, and noticing a few extra empty seats in the classroom, it seems obvious that flu is affecting students right here at home.
Flu needs to be taken seriously because complications can be deadly. While this season’s flu is nothing like the 1918 Spanish flu that killed 3 percent of the worlds population, it still has the potential to be devastating. Even if the flu doesn’t kill, the sniffling, coughing, fever, sore throat and body aches might make the person suffering wish they were dead.
Theresa Sheehan, M.D. is a North Carolina hospitalist who sees a lot of flu patients in her practice. Sheehan says this is a very bad flu season in North Carolina. “We’re experiencing the flu earlier than usual so the number of deaths is higher at this time than it usually is.” Because the flu hit earlier than expected, many people may have postponed their flu shot until it is too late.
Dr. Sheehan explained how to identify whether an illness is the flu or something less serious than a cold. “With the flu, we generally see high fevers, runny nose, body aches and respiratory infections. However, with a cold, there is not a high fever or reports of body aches.”
Leesville students should not take the possibility of flu lightly. There has already been one teenage death in North Carolina as a result of the flu. Dr. Sheehan points out that a lot of teens get the flu because not many get the flu shots or nasal mist, which are routinely administered to young children and to adults.
If a student has flu symptoms, a doctor can prescribe them helpful medicine if the student sees him or her within the first twenty-four hours. While the medicine will not cure the flu, it will reduce the severity. Therefore, Dr. Sheehan recommends that teens go to the doctor if they suspect they have the flu.
If a student has the flu, they should stay away from people, cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow, take ibuprofen or tylenol for the aches and pains, wash their hands a lot, and they should not go out in public. Stay home and rest. The traditional grandma’s advice of drinking lots of fluids and eating chicken soup can’t hurt either.
Dr. Sheehan says that if someone has had the flu, it’s probably safe to go back to school after about a week if they have taken prescribed flu medicine or ten days if they have not. The infected person should be at least twenty-four hours without a fever, and coughs and sneezes should be manageable so they don’t infect others.
While it would be preferable not to get the flu at all, if you do happen to get sick this flu season, follow the doctor’s advice. The teachers and fellow students will appreciate it.