HCN News & Notes

AFC Urgent Care Offers Treatment Advice for Flu Season

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to the flu, including an annual vaccine, frequent hand washing, and disinfection. However, despite precautions, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, and up to 710,000 hospitalizations and 56,000 deaths annually, since 2010.

The experts at AFC Urgent Care in West Springfield and Springfield noted that it’s not too late for those who haven’t received their flu vaccine this year.

“We still have the vaccine in our offices and urge people to stop by if they haven’t received a flu shot yet,” said Dr. Vincent Meoli, regional medical director of AFC Urgent Care, the largest urgent-care provider in the Commonwealth. “We haven’t seen many true flu cases yet in Western Massachusetts, but peak flu season is typically from December through February, and we see flu cases all the way through May.”

For those who come down with the flu, Meoli advises the following:

• Antiviral flu drugs may be prescribed to help to reduce the severity and duration of the flu, but the first dose should be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

• Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, avoiding caffeine and alcohol.

• Sip some chicken soup. Meoli noted that, beyond the emotional comfort, the heat, liquid, and vapors can be soothing for congestion.

• Getting plenty of rest and sleep allows the body to better fight the infection. “Listen to your body,” Meoli said. “Overexerting yourself will only extend the duration and intensity of the flu.”

• Relieve congestion and sinus pressure with a humidifier and warm compresses. Nasal sprays can be used for up to three days. Decongestants may help, but Meoli warned that they can increase blood pressure and heart rate, which can be an issue for some.

• Cough drops, lozenges, and hard candy can help with cough and sore throat, and gargling with salt water can help break up the mucous that collects at the back of the throat.

• For fever, headaches, and body aches, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can be taken as directed on the package.

What doesn’t help with the flu, according to Meoli, are antibiotics. “The flu is caused by a virus, and antibiotics are only effective with bacterial infections. The overuse of antibiotics reduces their effectiveness for future infections, so they shouldn’t be taken indiscriminately. If you suspect you have the flu, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible to ask about antiviral medication.”

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