Preventing Dehydration from Flu or Colds: Treating Symptoms is Essential to Avoid Complications

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fluid intake ice chips break up secretions
Female athlete drinking water.

The H1N1 flu presents with a high fever, cough and a very sore throat. This makes fluid intake difficult, but not impossible. The fever causes the body to sweat and lose fluid through the skin. Fluid replacement is essential to avoid dehydration. Forcing fluids is important to prevent complications.

Soothing liquids will be most acceptable. These include cold items such as ice chips, popsicles, frozen ices, and iced fruit pops. Clear juices, flavored water, or low sugar fruit drinks can be frozen to a soft state to make ices using an ice cube tray, small paper cups or other freezer friendly containers. Apple juice should be avoided as it can cause or increase diarrhea, especially in children.

Chicken Soup Works – fluid intake

Warm liquids can also be soothing, such as tea or broth. Chicken soup is good for a cold or flu. In addition to the fluid intake, breathing in the steam can help to break up secretions and to soothe respiratory passages.

Puddings, yogurt, and cottage cheese will help to provide nutrition, but don’t count towards fluid intake. Dairy can also increase secretions or phlegm and should be used with caution, especially if secretions increase, the cough becomes productive, or the patient feels as if he has something to cough up but can’t.

Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea – break up secretions

The flu can also cause intestinal irritation such as nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Sometimes the nausea is caused from a post nasal drip or from swallowing secretions. Treating these symptoms can help to reduce the nausea.

 

Using a humidifier to help break up secretions can be helpful. Using several pillows can help divert secretions out through the nose instead of down the throat. This can also help to calm a cough and ease breathing. A reclining chair may be a comfortable place to rest with the head and shoulders slightly elevated.

BRAT Diet – ice chips

If nausea or diarrhea are present, refrain from forcing fluids or food for a short while only and then try small amounts of ice chips. As tolerated, move towards a BRAT diet. This consists of Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. A little grape jelly can be added to the toast and this will increase the pectin, which will help to slow the diarrhea and soothe the intestines. Saltine crackers can be used in lieu of or in addition to toast.

This diet can be progressed to a BRATT diet which adds in tea and then a BRATTY diet which adds in yogurt. Again, use broths, ice chips, ices and other clear fluids as tolerated.

It is no longer considered necessary to rest the gut for a lengthy period to stop diarrhea. However, if the patient is vomiting, wait for 1-2 hours before trying to put anything into the stomach and then begin with ice chips and clear broth first. If vomiting persists, contact the health care practitioner.

Cooling Measures for Fever – seek medical attention

Cooling measures should be used to reduce a high fever (over 101 degrees F). This can include a cool bath or shower, or using an ice pack or cool cloths to the forehead or the top of the head. Use only a sheet or light blanket. Don’t bundle up with a fever even if chills are present.

If symptoms worsen or the patient is unable to take in fluids for several hours, seek medical attention. If symptoms improve and then worsen again, seek medical attention.

fluid intake ice chips break up secretions
Female athlete drinking water.
seek medical attention ice chips fluid intake break up secretions

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