An increasing number of suspected flu cases around the region has prompted Reading Health System to set up a flu hotline.
The hotline -- 484-628-1FLU (1358) -- is available Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The Reading Hospital said it is currently treating about 80 patients in isolation for flu-like symptoms, which is much higher than the normal two to eight patients, said officials, adding that the emergency department is reporting about 100 to 200 patients a day being treated for flu or flu-like symptoms.
The free flu hotline is staffed by trained hospital personnel who will provide information based on the caller's age, reported symptoms, and other health-related conditions, officials said.
Depending on the information provided, officials said recommendations may be made to "rest and take fluids and over-the-counter medication, make an appointment with your doctor today or seek immediate medical assistance."
The information, official said, is not intended to replace a medical consultation with a physician and does not constitute a diagnosis.
The health system also provided the following tips for preventing the flu:
- Get a flu shot. It is not too late to be vaccinated. Call your doctor or clinic. No matter what anyone tells you: you can not catch the flu from a flu shot!
- Avoid sick people whenever possible.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes unless you have washed or sanitized your hands first.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat healthy and be active.
- Sanitize common surfaces at home or work.
Common flu symptoms, the health system said, include:
- Sudden onset of fever higher than 100° F, or 37.8° C with a cough or sore throat or both
- Nasal congestion and a runny nose
- Headache, body aches, and/or chills
- Exhaustion or overall weakness
It is easy to confuse flu with colds and other health problems, said health officials, who added that otherwise-healthy people with flu symptoms usually do not benefit from a trip to the emergency room and are better off at home with over-the-counter treatments to ease their symptoms.
Health officials said you should, however, call your doctor if:
- If your symptoms worsen
- If you are pregnant, over age 65, or have a medical condition that puts you at higher risk of flu complications; these conditions include asthma, chronic heart and lung disease, diabetes, a weakened immune system.
Doctors said you should go to the emergency room if you become seriously ill with symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion, or if you are unable to eat or drink.
The Reading Health System provided the following tips if you do get sick:
- If you get sick, stay at home and rest. Most otherwise-healthy people with flu symptoms do not need to visit a hospital or physician office. With rest and proper care, your symptoms should go away in five to seven days.
- Avoid close contact with well people in your house so you won't make them sick.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash immediately after use.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based rub.
- Sanitize surfaces you touch throughout the day.
- Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent fluid loss and dehydration.
- Treat fever and cough with medicines you can buy at the store.
Do not return to work or other outside activities until 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines, health officials said.