Flu sea­son: When to head to the ER

Lesotho Times - - Health -

EV­ERY­ONE who has ever been sick has been faced with th­ese ques­tions: Is your con­di­tion bad enough to get your­self, or your kids, out of bed and into a doc­tor’s of­fice? Or, if sick­ness strikes on a week­end or af­ter hours — which it al­ways seems to, right? — when should you hit the walk-in or ER?

You know the flu can be danger­ous, but, when you feel hor­ri­ble any­way, how do you know what’s re­ally bad?

We of­ten think of in­fec­tions like the flu, pneu­mo­nia, or strep throat in terms of the symptoms they cause — for in­stance, high fever, cough or sore throat — and some­times for­get to think about the po­ten­tial for com­pli­ca­tions as a con­di­tion wors­ens.

It’s im­por­tant to be aware of what can hap­pen if an ill­ness pro­gresses, ac­cord­ing to a new over­view in the jour­nal Mayo Clinic Pro­ceed­ings. In the piece, se­nior au­thor Steve Peters, M.D., a pul­monary and crit­i­cal care doc­tor at the Mayo Clinic, says that deadly sep­sis is a very real risk in in­fec­tions such as the flu. We caught up with him for a down­load on sep­sis and other com­mon flu com­pli­ca­tions — and when to get your­self or a loved one to the ER, stat.

Who should call their doc­tor/ Nor­mal flu symptoms such as cough, con­ges­tion, fever, sore throat, or mus­cle aches do not re­quire a trip to the ER, and usu­ally begin to im­prove spon­ta­neously in a few days’ time.

How­ever, call your doc if you’re in a group prone to com­pli­ca­tions from flu (those over 65, those with chronic ill­ness, chil­dren un­der age 5) and ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese kinds of symptoms. “Those at higher risk should seek med­i­cal care early, as there is spe­cific an­tivi­ral treat­ment for in­fluenza,” Peters says, “but it is most ben­e­fi­cial if given in the first few days of ill­ness.”

When to seek ur­gent care: “Those with pro­gres­sive symptoms, such as short­ness of breath, should seek care ur­gently,” says Peters. If you have any trou­ble breath­ing, bluish skin, con­fu­sion, un­con­trol­lable vom­it­ing, ex­treme high fever or chest pain; are cough­ing up blood; or can­not take in flu­ids — go to the ER.

Be­sides sep­sis, which we’ll de­tail more be­low, com­pli­ca­tions “are most of­ten re­s­pi­ra­tory prob­lems, in­clud­ing bron­chi­tis and pneu­mo­nia, or wors­en­ing of chronic con­di­tions such as asthma,” and can also in­volve mus­cle in­flam­ma­tion, cen­tral ner­vous dis­ease and heart is­sues, Peters says. Th­ese are con­sid­ered emer­gency symptoms and need to be treated im­me­di­ately.

But what is it, ex­actly? ”Sep­sis refers to the ef­fects of in­flam­ma­tion caused by in­fec­tions on the body, like fever and el­e­vated white blood cell count,” Peters tells Ya­hoo Health. To break it down fur­ther, when you get sick with an in­fec­tion, the body re­leases chem­i­cals into the blood­stream to fight it off. Th­ese chem­i­cals trig­ger in­flam­ma­tory re­sponses in­side your body.

While the re­leased chem­i­cals do help fight off a bug, some­times the re­sult­ing in­flam­ma­tion is too much for the body’s or­gans. And if the in­flam­ma­tion is over­whelm­ing enough, the body can sus­tain dam­age to vi­tal or­gans such as the lungs, liver, or kid­neys that may put one’s life at risk.

So, sep­sis is a com­pli­ca­tion of in­fec­tion-based ill­nesses such as flu and pneu­mo­nia, but it re­ally has symptoms all its own.

The symptoms of sep­sis Clas­sic flu symptoms are also as­so­ci­ated with sep­sis, de­vel­op­ing from a in­fec­tion, even one caused by a deep cut or open wound. It’s also gen­er­ally most com­mon among those with weak­ened im­mune sys­tems, like the chron­i­cally ill or el­derly.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween a regular in­fec­tion and sep­sis? The sever­ity of symptoms. With a gar­den-va­ri­ety in­fec­tion, you would have some aches, some pains and a low-grade fever around 37 de­grees cel­sius, but you would still be able to com­mu­ni­cate, drink flu­ids and move around.

With sep­sis, the pa­tient is not func­tional. The ill­ness would seem to progress from mod­er­ately bad to a whole lot worse over hours or the course of a day. Be­ware of high fever or re­fus­ing flu­ids, says Peters. “Fever, fa­tigue and gen­er­al­ized ach­i­ness are com­mon,” he ex­plains. “Other signs to watch for in­clude high fever, short­ness of breath, drowsi­ness or con­fu­sion, and an in­abil­ity to keep flu­ids down.” If you no­tice th­ese symptoms, see a doc­tor right away.

Why a doc­tor is cru­cial Since the con­di­tion can snow­ball and pro­gres­sively worsen, you can’t wait if your gut says some­thing is wrong. Prompt treat­ment is es­sen­tial, be­cause sep­sis can quickly turn into se­vere sep­sis. “Se­vere sep­sis oc­curs when there are fur­ther signs of in­jury to or­gans of the body, such as dif­fi­culty breath­ing, drop in urine pro­duc­tion, or liver dam­age,” says Peters. Th­ese symptoms may re­sult in sep­tic shock if or­gans start to fail — when the body isn’t re­spond­ing to flu­ids and med­i­ca­tions.

The worse the in­fec­tion gets, the more dif­fi­cult to re­bound. In hos­pi­tals, sep­tic shock is fa­tal in 20 to 30

per­cent of cases.

How is sep­sis treated? Emer­gency medics and hos­pi­tal work­ers are equipped to eval­u­ate and tackle signs of ad­vanc­ing sep­sis im­me­di­ately. In fact, they’re on guard for them. The Mayo Clinic has even de­vel­oped “snif­fers” to test for early symptoms of the con­di­tion in pa­tients with higher risk.

When peo­ple ar­rive at the ER, their symptoms are as­sessed and doc­tors take a cul­ture from a blood sam­ple, as well as from any other parts of the body that seem to be rel­e­vant or af­fected. They get the per­son on an IV, and they start an­tibi­otics if they think sep­sis is a real risk.

The ini­tial, pri­mary fo­cus of the ER team is on keep­ing flu­ids in the sys­tem, says Peters, which is some­thing the pa­tient with po­ten­tial sep­sis may not have been able to do to this point.

Can you pre­vent sep­sis? Peters says sep­sis is hard to pre­vent, but early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and in­ter­ven­tion are the most cru­cial as­pects of re­duc­ing risks, along with mon­i­tor­ing for high fever and mak­ing sure the per­son stays hy­drated if at all pos­si­ble. “Sus­pi­cion should be high, es­pe­cially in the el­derly; in those with chronic dis­eases such as di­a­betes, heart fail­ure or lung dis­ease; and in peo­ple on im­mune sup­press­ing drugs,” he says, es­pe­cially now. “The fre­quency of sep­sis in the pop­u­la­tion does vary with the sea­sons, in­creas­ing in the win­ter months, es­pe­cially when re­lated to re­s­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions and pneu­mo­nia.”

Thank­fully, chil­dren are at rel­a­tively lower risk of sep­sis when com­pared with adults, so don’t panic if your kid comes down with a bug.

— Ya­hoo Health

Dif­fer­ent sea­sons af­fect your genes in ways that al­ter how your im­mune sys­tem func­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.