Fighting the flu: What works and what doesn't

This year's flu outbreak has everyone scrambling to find a way to get better faster. Here's what doctors told us about those approaches.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — The warnings have been in place for weeks on what not to do when you get the flu: stay home and don’t go to work or school.

With public health experts calling this year’s flu season among the worst in recent memory, doctors have other “don’t’s” to consider if the virus hits home.

“The flu has essentially become a pandemic over the last few months,” said Dr. Wendell Pahls, the director of Emergency Services at Baptist Health in Little Rock. “This year's flu is a little bit more intense in its symptoms than some previous flus.”

So now that so many friends and neighbors have the virus, what do we need to avoid to get through it?

Doctor Grandma famously had her ways. Are any of them bad for you? What about alcohol?

“The old wives’ tale about take a bunch of whiskey and then go to bed is probably not in your best interest,” Dr. Pahls said. “Alcohol tends to make you a little bit dehydrated. it promotes urination. And when you are sick with the one of the most important things you do is keep yourself hydrated.”

Hydration is key to feeling better. So is breaking the fever. Doctors say don't latch on to just one pain reliever like Tylenol or Advil.

“What we currently recommend is to use appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen and then three hours later alternate with the other agent,” Dr. Pahls said.

From a public health standpoint, experts say staying fit will cut down flu dangers.

“Most otherwise healthy people their body, their immune system is going to be able to fight off the flu,” said Dr. Amanda Novack, an infectious diseases specialist with the Arkansas Department of Health. “Obviously we recommend anyone who is a smoker quits smoking for lots of reasons, but especially because influenza is very hard on the lungs.”

So don't smoke'em if you got'em, and please don't spread it if you got it by going to the emergency room unless you’re seriously ill.

“If someone is really struggling to breathe, they need to come to the emergency department,” said Dr. Pahls, who has led the Baptist E.R. for 13 years. “If they are so ill they are having trouble functioning or they appear to be so dehydrated that they can't keep up with it at home, then they should come.”

Over-the-counter medications have their place, as do some of Grandma’s remedies. There’s even some science behind some of those methods, like chicken soup.

“Some of it is just the hydration that's involved in soup,” Dr. Novack said. “There's liquid involved in the soup and then just the vitamins and nutrients and a little bit of salt can help when you're getting dehydrated.”

Both doctors recommend common sense when it comes to trying something to get through the flu.

“These over-the-counter meds promising to make your flu go away faster, they're probably not going to be very helpful,” Dr. Novack said. “But if it helps you slow down and focus on getting better, then I think they are okay.”

© 2018 KTHV-TV


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