It’s fast approaching, so don’t be fooled! No, we’re not talking about the Halloween ghost and ghouls, but rather that haunting flu, with the undesirable symptoms which include: headache, cough, muscle aches, foggy brain, and nausea. While experiencing these symptoms, it may seem like you have the flu. However, consider these other potentially dangerous exposures that can masquerade as the flu, each of which may also have significant health consequences. Although there are other health issues that may mimic the flu, we’ll touch on the following three common toxic exposures since toxins are what the IPC deals with:
Flu and peak CO poisoning/exposure seasons go hand-in-hand (Oct.-April). During this period, the flu virus is active and person-to-person transmission peaks. At the same time, people are shutting themselves inside and turning on the furnace, which if not ventilated properly causes a buildup of CO. We receive calls from people all the time asking: “What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?” One of our first questions is: “Do you have a working CO detector in your home?
It’s possible to mistake CO poisoning for the flu, and as a result, staying in the environment that’s causing the symptoms, increases the risk of severe toxicity. Serious CO poisoning can be extremely dangerous if not treated immediately. It can be potentially deadly and also cause long-term neurological problems.
Initial symptoms of CO poisoning are:
- Shortness of breath;
- Weakness; and
What to do: If you know or suspect that you might have CO poisoning, you should seek medical attention by calling 911 or going to the ER immediately.
We’re currently in the midst of a nationwide epidemic of severe respiratory illnesses linked to the use of e-cigarettes (also known as vaping) containing THC and/or nicotine. Many of these cases have required extensive hospitalizations and numerous deaths. A surprising number of these cases involved young, otherwise healthy patients with no previous medical condition.
Symptoms of a potential respiratory illness due to vaping include:
- Fatigue; and
- Shortness of breath.
What to do: If you’ve been vaping nicotine and/or THC within the past three months and are experiencing unusual, unexplained respiratory symptoms, stop vaping and seek medical attention immediately.
When we receive a call related to food poisoning, we ask what they’ve eaten in the last few day(s). We also inquire whether or not anyone else who ate the same food(s) have similar symptoms in the same time frame. The answers may help identify if it’s a food poisoning issue.
Bacterial food poisoning symptoms may start within a few hours after the ingestion of contaminated food and include:
- Vomiting diarrhea, and
- Abdominal cramping.
What to do: Mild cases may be managed at home with simple measures such as drinking clear liquids (water, sports drinks, tea), BRAT diet and bed rest. Serious cases are associated with high fever, blood in the stool and dehydration. For such cases, we recommend getting to a healthcare facility for evaluation and treatment ASAP.
If symptoms worsen or don’t improve with time or simple measures, seek medical attention by calling your doctor or going to nearest healthcare facility. If you think you or others have been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, call the Illinois Poison Center’s free, confidential, expert Helpline. It’s a phone call way any time of day or night: 800-222-1222.
In good health, Tony, Erin & Vickie
P.S. Can’t resist including this oldie but goodie: This Masquerade (by George Benson)