Doctor: It’s been a sick winter with many getting strep and flu

Weather conditions forcing people to stay indoors; flu season continues

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Winter may officially be over, but the recent cooler temperatures are still forcing people to stay indoors, which means more germs to spread around.

"What happens in the wintertime, it tends to be people crowd in together. They're on top of each other. They don't get out and run and gun," said Dr. Susan Bankston, a pediatrician at the Baton Rouge Clinic. She said it's been a pretty bad winter with plenty of sick patients.

"Strep is super common anytime in the winter. I had two positives Tuesday, but we're not seeing a great surge of it. We are seeing plenty of sick people and that's with the strep, the flu and also the stomach virus has been going around," said Dr. Bankston.

Dr. Bankston said the flu usually starts dying down by March, but we're now in mid-April and they're still seeing positive tests of both influenza A and B. She added the stomach bug can be confused for the flu. "It looks like the flu because you may run a fever but it's different because you might do a little vomiting and diarrhea and some people call that the stomach flu," said Dr. Bankston.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC))

Many are going in with sore throats. Only a doctor can test for strep, but there are certain things a person can look for at home. "It is good to look in your throat if you can. And if you see, I call it, it looks like ground meat red and then there are some things called dots on top of your mouth and those are called Petechiae. Those are definite hints of strep. Also, you can have some puss," said Dr. Bankston.

She said other symptoms of strep are large lymph nodes, headaches, chills, even a slight fever and that strep comes on very quickly. Salt water and warm liquids do help. Antibiotics will also help take care of the bacteria, but not taking proper medication could lead to things like the Rheumatic fever. "Strep throat will go away, the pain will go away on its own. The problem with that bacteria is sometimes it goes and hides in places like your heart or your kidneys. That can do ultimate long-term damage, sometimes permanent damage," said Dr. Bankston.

Which is why she said doctors like to treat strep within 4 to 5 days to kill the bacteria. If it's not strep, allergies in Louisiana can trigger a nasal drip that will cause a sore throat. You can fight that with a few things.

"Taking an antihistamine, using a nose spray, all of this you can buy over the counter," said Dr. Bankston.

It can take anywhere between 4-5 days or up to about 2 weeks for a person to return to normal. Doctors cannot stress enough to wash your hands as often as possible and don’t eat or drink after each other, that includes spouses and even after your children because you’re passing the bacteria to each other.

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