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Telehealth Options as Flu Season Nears Peak

Tips for avoiding the flu include regularly washing hands with soap and water, reducing stress, getting eight hours of sleep, eating nutritious food, getting frequent exercise and getting a flu shot. (Pixnio)
Tips for avoiding the flu include regularly washing hands with soap and water, reducing stress, getting eight hours of sleep, eating nutritious food, getting frequent exercise and getting a flu shot. (Pixnio)
December 19, 2019

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported increased numbers of flu cases across the U.S., including flu-related deaths, and officials are encouraging people to take preventive steps before the season reaches its peak.

Family physician Dr. Mia Finkelston says advances in telehealth -- where patients connect with doctors via phone or online video -- are improving access to care. She says virtual appointments let doctors use the same observational skills as they would during an office visit.

"And then, with the help of the patient, I can guide them to maybe 'feel your neck for me,' or 'zoom in a little closer so I can see that rash, or the back of your throat,'" she explains. "So, it's a little bit more give-and-take creativity, but it's virtually the same."

Flu symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, gastrointestinal issues, coughing or other respiratory problems and a runny or stuffy nose.

Tips for staying healthy include reducing stress, getting at least eight hours of sleep, eating nutritious food, frequent exercise, regularly washing hands with soap and water and getting a flu shot.

Finkelston says online visits can help people understand if it's flu or just a common cold, without having to visit a doctor's office or hospital, where there's risk of exposing yourself and others to the virus.

She says people who decide to skip getting a flu shot should ask themselves if they can afford to take a week off from work.

"Even healthy people are wiped out a good seven to 10 days before they bounce back," she points out. "The flu shot will offer protection, but you can still get the flu and your illness will likely be a shorter duration, and your symptoms won't necessarily be as intense."

Finkelston says because flu season hasn't yet reached its peak, it's not too late to get a flu shot.

She notes that because the strength of the shot decreases over time and fully wears off after about six months, those who haven't yet been vaccinated could actually be at an advantage.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY