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Analyzing the Flu: How to treat, when to visit hospital

Doctors offer their advice on how to tackle the sickness as we reach the height of a severe flu season in Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The flu has continued to spread rapidly here in Arkansas, and there's no sign of it slowing down anytime soon. 

The latest data from the Arkansas Department of Health showed 45 flu-related deaths have been reported since October 1.

According to ADH, we're at the height of a severe flu season and one doctor said there are steps you should take at home before deciding if you need to go to the hospital. 

"The flu has hit a lot earlier this year than we typically expect it and it's also hit in force," Dr. Josh Keithley, Emergency Department Director at St. Vincent in Hot Springs said.

Dr. Keithley explained that flu is the number one sickness he's seeing in the hospital right now, but there are ways you can manage your symptoms before getting admitted. 

"You'll never feel well if you have a fever. So Tylenol and NSAIDs, such as Motrin, Ibuprofen, those go a long way to making you feel better," Dr. Keithley added.

His other piece of advice was to make sure you drink a lot of water. 

"You lose a lot of water through the excessive coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea, just having a fever increases your demand," he said.

The ADH said that hospitals aren't in a crisis, but they are stretched trying to accommodate the increase in sick patients. 

Dr. Keithley said there are some signs you should pay attention to decide if you need to go to the emergency room. 

"If you can't tolerate food and water, because you're vomiting so much, that's a reason to go to the emergency department," he said.

Another reason for going to the ER is if you have trouble breathing. 

Dr. Joel Tumlison with ADH said Arkansas's flu activity was ranked very high again for the fourth week in a row. 

"We're seeing those higher-than-usual numbers of deaths, at this point in the flu season," Dr. Tumlison said.

He said that it's because the flu season started earlier this year— but as far as vaccinations go, he said they continue to rise. 

"I think that's due to the early start to the flu season. People took notice they knew lots of people around them were getting sick with the flu...in a normal year, they would probably be slowing down," he said.

This year's flu season is so severe, that two Cleveland County schools are switching to AMI days for the rest of the week because of a spike in cases.

Staff at Rison Elementary and Rison High School will spend the next two days sanitizing the buildings to stop the spread.

If you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, both doctors said it's not too late to get vaccinated.

The peak could last anywhere from 3 more weeks to 2 months.


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