To help our local media and community leaders respond to residents’ concerns about risk and infection, we would like to address several common questions we hear from those coming to our emergency room:
• “Will you test me for Swine Flu?”
Hospitals do not perform H1N1 virus testing. Testing for the H1N1 virus can only be done by the NYC Department of Health, not your local hospital. While emergency rooms do test for seasonal flu, those tests are being reserved for patients with severe flu-like symptoms.
• “Can you provide medication?”
Doctors are only giving antiviral medicines, such as Tamiflu, to those people with severe illness or certain underlying medical conditions. Most flu lasts only a few days, and most people recover completely without medication, so use it only if your doctor recommends it. If you have other underlying medical conditions, you should consult with your doctor.
• “What if I might have the flu?”
If you think you have the flu, follow these guidelines from the NYC Department of Health:
· Stay home until you feel better. Don’t return to work or school until you have been well for at least 24 hours.
· Avoid going to the hospital if you have mild flu-like symptoms such as fever and cough – even if you think you could have H1N1 flu. People with flu usually recover without medical treatment, but other illnesses can cause a fever, so call your doctor if you are in doubt. You should rest, drink plenty of liquids and take the same over-the-counter medicines that you would normally use to treat flu.
· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Clean your hands afterwards, using soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• “When should I go to the hospital?”
If the illness gets worse (see list of symptoms below), seek medical attention from your doctor or a hospital emergency department. When you arrive, go to the receptionist and explain that you have flu-like symptoms. You may be asked to wear a mask or sit in a separate area. If you call an ambulance to take you to the hospital, let the 911 operator know that you have flu-like symptoms and tell the ambulance crew, too.
Signs that an adult needs to go the hospital, include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or stomach, sudden dizziness, confusion, or severe, persistent vomiting.
Signs that a child needs to go to the hospital, include: fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, or fever with a rash.
We hope you find this information useful, and please share it with your constituents, friends, family and coworkers.
Vice President, Public Affairs and Marketing
New York Hospital Queens