Maggie Onstott hopes her husband’s hubris that the crud can’t touch him turns out to be true.
“He thinks he has superior genetics or something like that. We’ve coughed all over him and sneezed all over him. I truly do not know how he’s not ill yet,” Onstott said Saturday, the first day that she had ventured out of her parents’ home since Monday.
The 26-year-old, her 4-year-old daughter, her 1-year-old son and her mother all have been sick. Onstott and her family have been living with her parents while their house is being remodeled. Somehow, despite living under the same roof, her husband and father managed to stay healthy. Her husband, a teacher, goes back to school this week, and she hopes he doesn’t succumb to the stuff that’s kept emergency department doctors and nurses at Wichita hospitals on the go.
Being a sick mom with sick kids is, well, basically, you-know-what. Onstott could have starred in one of those coughing-fever-runny nose-chest pains-headache-sore throat commercials this past week.
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“It’s awful,” Onstott said. “Everybody’s miserable.”
She went to the doctor Friday and learned she likely had influenza that turned into pneumonia. Because she had waited a while to get to the doctor, her doctor didn’t test her for the flu but said she likely had had it, Onstott said.
“I’ve never been this sick for this period of time ever,” she said.
She tried to rest as much as possible, but that wasn’t always easy with two sick children.
“As soon as they went to sleep, I was in bed. I was laying down as much as I could. I wasn’t doing laundry and running around doing errands like I usually am, that’s for sure,” Onstott said.
Her doctor prescribed an antibiotic, steroid and cough syrup with codeine. Since taking the pharmaceutical panacea, she’s felt a bit better, Onstott said.
Hutchinson resident Patsy Terrell has been struggling with bronchitis since mid-September. She said in an e-mail that she is “just now feeling like I’m getting past it.”
She went home to Kentucky for the holidays, and during that visit, her brother landed in the ER because he couldn’t breathe.
“They diagnosed him with the flu,” she wrote. “That evening I messaged my doctor, asking if I should do a preventative round of Tamiflu. With my respiratory system already compromised from the bronchitis, I could not imagine having the flu on top of it. The doctor called in a prescription the following day, and I started it immediately. So far, so good — I am symptom-free.”
Terrell is a self-described “obsessive hand washer” who uses hand sanitizer several times a day.
“I’ve been even more cautious since being in the house with someone who has the flu,” she wrote. “Unless people will stay home when they’re sick, I don’t see how we can slow the spread of it.”
Emergency departments are seeing a spike in patients.
“Oh yeah. Tons and tons,” Mag Botros, a doctor at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph’s emergency department, said when asked if there were a lot of people coming in with fevers, coughs and colds.
Although he doesn’t think Wichita has yet met its cold-weather-crud peak, the emergency department’s been hopping.
He recommends that otherwise healthy people with cold-like symptoms such as cough and runny nose see their primary care physician and stay out of the emergency department if possible. Older people and those with compromised immune systems probably need to come in in case they do have influenza.
Most people don’t, he said, “but it’s nearly impossible to tell.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while the flu and common cold are both respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses. In general, a fact sheet from the CDC says, the flu is worse than a cold. Fever, body aches, extreme fatigue and a dry cough are common signs of the flu. Runny and stuffy noses are generally signs of a cold.
If you feel dizzy and are short of breath, particularly if you are older, a visit to the emergency department may be in order, Botros said.
Susan Burchill, marketing and public relations manager at Wesley Medical Center, said the emergency department there, as well as at Galichia Heart Hospital and Wesley West, has “seen a spike with people coming in with flu and cold-type illnesses.”
Doctors have been able to treat and release most patients without admitting them to the hospital, she said.
Terrell said she and her brother both received flu shots.
The CDC has said the flu shot has not been as effective this year, although it still is recommending people get one and is stressing it’s not too late.
But it is too late to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
“We were going to go to a New Year’s Eve party,” Onstott said. “Right before we decided to leave, my son’s chest started rattling, and my daughter’s fever spiked. I was going to try to tough it out and go. We were feeling pretty ambitious and then that plateaued, and we were like, yeah, never mind. We were asleep significantly before midnight — at least I was.”
Now you know
▪ What is influenza, more commonly known as the flu?
It is a viral infection of the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs.
▪ What are some symptoms of flu?
Headache, fever greater than 100.4, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches.
▪ How is flu spread?
Flu is highly contagious and spread with contact with droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person during coughing and sneezing.
▪ How soon do symptoms appear, and how long will I be contagious?
If you’ve contracted the flu, you’ll usually experience symptoms between one and three days after infection. You’ll be contagious the day before symptoms appeared for up to a week.
▪ How can I prevent the flu?
Wash your hands frequently. Cough into your elbow, not your hands. Eat healthy and drink lots of water. Rest. Stay home when you are sick.
▪ Should I go to the emergency department if I’m sick?
Generally, no. Try to see your primary care physician instead. If you go to the emergency department and don’t have the flu, you might get it there. However, if you are having trouble breathing, feeling faint, have chest pains unrelated to coughing or have a compromised immune system, seek medical care.
▪ Where can I get more information?
Talk to your primary care physician. Go online to the Sedgwick County Health Department at www.sedgwickcounty.org/healthdept/.
Source: Sedgwick County Health Department