Archive for February, 2015


We are now seeing an increase in patients presenting with influenza and it is predicted that we are likely to see many more.

Influenza, the name of the virus for which the “flu” season is named, causes a highly contagious respiratory infection which often starts very quickly and may cause the following symptoms:

– Fever, headache, and extreme fatigue.

– Cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose.

– Body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

As opposed to influenza, a bad cold — often referred to as an upper respiratory infection — may have symptoms of nasal and sinus congestion, a sore throat, and ear pressure. Bronchitis may have a very bothersome nagging cough, but neither of these illnesses are likely to have symptoms of fever or body aches as influenza does.

The flu can cause mild to severe illness and occasionally can lead to death. Most healthy people who contract the flu recover without complications. However, some people — especially the elderly or the very young, as well as those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma, are at a high risk for serious complications of the flu.

One of the most deadly side effects of the flu is pneumonia which is a very serious lung infection.

The flu usually spreads from person to person from respiratory droplets when one who is affected coughs or sneezes. It also often spreads by touching some object that has the influenza virus on it and then touching one’s mouth, nose, or eyes.

A person coming down with the flu is contagious from one day prior to showing any symptoms and remains contagious for at least five days after the symptoms begin.

Although it has been reported that this year’s flu vaccine has not been very effective against the prevailing H3N2 strain of flu, experts still recommend getting the shot as it seems to add some protection. As it is said; “something is better than nothing.”

This vaccine is approved for use in people older than 6 months of age.

Almost everyone can benefit from the flu shot, but it is highly recommended for the following groups:

– Pregnant women and children younger than five years.

– People 50 years of age and older and those with chronic medical conditions.

– Those who live in nursing homes or other long term care facilities.

– People who work or live with those at high risk for complications of the flu.

The flu shot contains a dead virus which will cause a person’s immune system to create antibodies to help prevent one from getting infected, or at least to help lessen the effects of an infection.

It’s still worth considering, and not too late. Flu season can last well into springtime.

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Having begun my career in a busy county trauma emergency room (ER) and now working in urgent care, I wanted to use this experience as an opportunity to explain how you can decide when to go to the ER and not to urgent care.

Emergency rooms see more than 300,000 patients daily in the U.S. To help diminish this large number of patients — many of whom do not have serious problems — urgent-care centers began seeing patients in the late 1970s.

There are now more than 9,000 urgent-care centers functioning across the country and the number is growing.

Because of lower overhead, urgent-care centers charge much less for non-emergency care than do emergency rooms where overhead to provide needed comprehensive care is much more expensive.

In general, ERs can utilize all that the hospital has to offer, which includes the ability to admit a patient, especially to the intensive care unit (ICU) for more serious problems. Also, a hospital-based ER is able to utilize state-of-the-art X-ray and imaging studies, as well as a full laboratory — which in most cases can obtain immediate test results.

ERs usually have a full complement of specialists on call to take care of a variety of medical, surgical, or pediatric problems.

In general, almost any condition which can be described as “severe” should be treated at an emergency room.

Coming to urgent care, even though it may be closer to you than the ER, with such a severe problem often leads to being sent by paramedics to the emergency room. This is not only very expensive, but can waste valuable time to begin much needed treatment. Once you arrive at urgent care, it is the on-duty doctor who determines whether your particular problem can be treated there, or if you need to be sent for more comprehensive care at the ER.

The following are some of the more common reasons to go to an ER rather than urgent care:

If you have severe:

– Chest pain.

– Abdominal pain.

– Headache.

– Backache.

– Vomiting and/or diarrhea.

– Difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath.

– Burns.

– Trauma.

Or go to the ER if you have:

– An allergic reaction with trouble breathing, feeling faint, or severe hives.

– Fainting, sudden dizziness, or weakness.

– Sudden changes in vision.

– Confusion, change of mental state, or difficulty speaking.

– Suicidal thoughts.

– Uncontrollable bleeding. (Remember to always apply pressure to the wound until you receive treatment.)

– An injury to an arm or leg that causes a deformity, that is to say an arm or leg that is bent instead of being straight.

– Poisoning or drug overdose.

– Loss of consciousness.

– Miscarriage or a sick newborn baby.

– Illegal drug-related problems.

Call 911 if you consider an injury or illness to be very serious or potentially life-threatening.

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