Warm Care for Cold & Flu Season
An experienced primary-care doctor shares how to stay healthy this fall.
Throughout nearly 30 years as a primary-care physician at East Jefferson General Hospital, Dr. Blaise Angelico has always favored a common-sense approach. He understands that, sometimes, healthcare best practices are more obvious to internists than to their patients. So, he makes sure to offer advice that helps patients care for their bodies outside of his office — especially during cold and flu season.
Born and raised in Old Jefferson, Dr. Angelico graduated from Isidore Newman School. After completing his undergraduate education at the University of Virginia, he attended Louisiana State University Medical School here in New Orleans, followed by a residency in internal medicine at Ochsner.
“Pretty much from 9, 10, 11 years old, I always had an interest in medicine,” Dr. Angelico says. “I thought I might be an orthopedic doctor, since I was big into sports.” However, during medical school, internal medicine caught his interest for its wide breadth of conditions, and the ability it provided to form long-lasting relationships.
“For quite a few years, I’ve been following some patients and their families,” Dr. Angelico says. “That’s probably the best part of being an internist — the relationship you develop through the years with patients.” Some of Dr. Angelico’s patients have been with him since he first became a physician. “I was around 28, and they were around 18,” he says.
We’re quickly approaching flu season — a time of year when Dr. Angelico sees many of his patients, and when he clears up several misconceptions about the flu, the common cold and how best to go about taking care of your family. Below, Dr. Angelico provides guidance for navigating illness at work and at home.
Tips for Getting Through the Flu Season
Before the start of the cold and flu season, it’s important to make sure your lab work is up to date with your doctor’s office. Lab work, which usually includes blood and urine samples, helps your physician recommend the right protective measures for you — including the flu vaccine and any other recommended shots, such as the pneumonia vaccine, which can shield those with compromised or weakened immune systems.
“When flu shots become available, people should obtain one promptly,” Dr. Angelico advises. He cautions that the influenza vaccine does not protect against the common cold — since the influenza virus causes the flu, and other respiratory viruses cause common colds. “I think most younger people are more attuned to that than when I was first in medicine,” he says. “They get viruses, and they know that antibiotics don’t kill viruses.”
If you’re feeling a bit under the weather, try not to go to work. “When you’re first ill, you don’t feel so ill, but, you go to work, and you make everyone else get sick,” Dr. Angelico says. “People walk a fine line there, because you have to go to work and make a living.” However, it’s better to take time off when you first begin to feel ill, since this is the time when you’re most contagious.
Office workers will certainly encourage their colleagues to take a rest day if they’re sick. If you must go to work sick, or do your job alongside an ill coworker, practice germ safety by washing your hands frequently, and sneezing or coughing into a tissue instead of into your hands.
“For people who aren’t sick: Wash your hands, and, even more importantly, avoid bringing your hands to your mouth, your nose and your eyes,” Dr. Angelico says. “That’s another way that many common viruses are spread.”
If you do get sick, Dr. Angelico says it’s important to avoid taking cough suppressant medicine, like cough syrup, during the first day or two. Instead, take a mucolytic, like Mucinex — these medicines are designed to loosen the mucus inside your chest and allow it to escape, instead of allowing it to sit and harbor bacteria. Drink plenty of water to make sure the medicine can do its job.
If you develop significant fever, facial pain or a productive cough with chest pain, you may have developed a bacterial complication requiring antibiotics.
Blaise A. Angelico, M.D.
East Jefferson General Hospital
3601 Houma Blvd., Suite 402
Metairie, LA 70002
MEDICAL SCHOOL: Louisiana State University Medical School, New Orleans
RESIDENCY: Ochsner Health System, Internal Medicine
BOARD CERTIFICATIONS: Internal Medicine