Posted on January 14, 2018

Officials at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) are asking members of the public not to visit friends and family in hospital if they are unwell.

HMC's Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Head of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal (pictured), emphasized how important it is for people with flu or common cold symptoms to avoid visiting patients until these symptoms subside completely.

“While the flu is generally not a life-threating condition for a young healthy individual, it can make someone who is already sick or recovering from a medical condition very ill and can complicate their illness and prolong their stay in the hospital,” said Dr. Al Khal. “People who are sick with symptoms of respiratory tract infections shouldn’t visit someone in hospital at any time of year, but this advice is particularly important during the flu (winter) season when the flu virus and several other respiratory (flu-like) viruses are in circulation.”

Healthy hospital visitors are instructed to sanitize their hands when they arrive at the hospital and before they leave. They should also cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue or their sleeve, and sanitize their hands after coughing or sneezing. Dr. Al Khal added that individuals who feel sick should stay at home to avoid spreading the flu and focus on getting well. He said that anyone experiencing flu symptoms should rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take fever-reducing medicine. Those who have other chronic diseases like asthma or heart disease and who have flu-like illness (fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, body aches) should seek medical attention immediately.

Flu symptoms can include:

  • Fever of 38°C or higher
  • Chills 
  • Harsh, barking cough 
  • Runny nose 
  • Headache 
  • Vomiting/nausea 
  • Body aches 
  • Sore throat 
  • Generalized weakness

Dr. Al Khal added that members of the public who are experiencing flu symptoms should seek treatment from their primary care provider and avoid going to the Emergency Department unless they have existing health conditions that put them at risk for severe influenza. Pregnancy women are at increased risk for severe influenza and should seek medical attention if they develop flu symptoms.

“This year we are seeing an increased number of patients with influenza-like-illness at our emergency departments. Many of these cases are not an emergency and can be treated at community-based health centers. For most individuals, the best treatment for flu is staying at home, drinking plenty of fluids, sleeping, and taking anti-fever medication. Unless you are over the age of 65 or under the age of 2, have diabetes, a heart, lung, or kidney condition, or immunosuppression, it is usually not necessary to visit a hospital for treatment of the flu,” said Dr. Al Khal.

Anyone who is having difficulty breathing (more than regular congestion), is experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain or severe abdominal pain, confusion, sudden dizziness, or severe vomiting, should, however, seek medical attention. The best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu shot, wash your hands thoroughly, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth when you are outside, and avoid contact with individuals who are sick.