Back to the basics during a severe flu season

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It has been a rough flu season so far, and it still has several weeks to go.  Another 20 people have died from the flu in North Carolina, pushing the death toll for the season to 95, health officials said Thursday.

"We have seen a significant influx of patients with flu like illness and complications," said Dr. John Bream, a physician and the Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. "Generally, our call influx has been about 20 patients per day higher than we normally see, and some days we've been seeing as many as 180 patients per day when our normal volume may be about 140."

Dr. Bream says that most cases can be treated at home with over-the-counter medication.

"Generally, most flu cases can be handled with over the counter medication," Dr. Bream added. "You want to take Tylenol or Motrin for fever or body aches.  They make all kinds of medications over the counter for coughing, congestion, sore throat."

"It's definitely a rough year as far as flu, we're seeing a large volume of patients with the flu and other cough and cold symptoms," said Kyle Yoder of Moose Pharmacy.

For some, the flu is a significant danger and may require a trip to the doctor or an emergency room.

"Certain populations are at risk, including young infants under the age of two years old, adults over the age of 65," Dr. Bream added. "People with conditions including diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or other multiple health issues.  People with underlying lung disease such as COPD or asthma are at risk of complications.  Those populations need to see their primary care provider urgently, or certainly anyone who is really weak or lethargic or vomiting and can't keep anything down…or especially in those populations, shortness of breath, need to come to the emergency department for evaluation."

The flu may take two weeks to run its course.  If symptoms aren't affected by over the counter remedies, Dr. Bream says don't wait too long to get professional help.

"Generally symptoms of fever, headache and body aches last 3-4 days and then go away leaving a cough and feeling run down for about 10-14 days," Dr. Bream said. "If the fever, etc, lasts longer than 5 days, then that suggests there could be another process of complications."

According to DHHS, flu-like illnesses now account for 7 percent of hospital visits across the state.

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