What is Influenza (flu)?
First of all, it’s important to know what the flu is. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by the influenza virus. This virus moves through your body by spreading through the upper and lower respiratory tracts. It can cause mild to severe illness and if you have a lung disease, such as asthma, you can experience increased risks for developing complications. Flu season typically begins in October and goes through February, tapering off around April.
Do I have the flu or a cold?
The flu and a cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. There are special tests that can be administered within the first few days of being sick to tell if a person has the influenza virus. Generally speaking, a cold is milder than the flu, with symptoms of a runny or stuffed up nose, sore throat and moderate coughing or chest discomfort. A cold does not usually result in more serious health issues such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or the need to be hospitalized.
What symptoms should I watch for with the flu?
- Suddenly running a high fever
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- A dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Joint pain or muscle aches
Should I get a flu shot this year?
Everyone who is 6 months or older should get a flu shot each season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year, the influenza virus changes and the annual flu vaccine includes 3 to 4 different flu virus strains that it targets for that season. The flu shot is safe for anyone over the age of 6 months and it is also safe for pregnant women and people with chronic diseases. It is also important to note that people over the age of 65 should receive the high-dose flu shot.
However, there are exceptions to who is eligible for a flu shot.
If you have a severe, life-threatening allergy to the ingredients in a flu vaccine you should not get the flu shot and should talk with your medical professional about ways to treat the symptoms of flu if you are affected. Children younger than 6 months should also not be vaccinated.
Talk with your doctor before getting a flu shot if you have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) or if you are currently feeling ill.
What else can I do to prevent getting the flu?
The flu is a highly contagious airborne virus that is spread by people when they cough, sneeze or even talk. You can inhale the virus and become infected if you are in close proximity. You can also come in contact by touching a surface that has the flu virus and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose. A person can spread the flu without even knowing that they are sick. They are contagious one day before symptoms occur and up to seven days after they become sick. Sometimes children or people with weakened immune systems can remain contagious for longer than seven days.
Prevention includes washing your hands consistently and avoiding touching your mouth, nose or eyes to reduce the opportunity of introducing the virus into your body. If you feel that you are developing flu symptoms, seek medical attention promptly. Finally if you are sick, limit your exposure to people to avoid passing on the virus.
Hampton Family Practice has flu shots available are is here to help you get healthy and stay health. If you are experiencing flu symptoms, or feeling generally unwell, our providers at Hampton Family Practice can test for the flu virus and provide treatment for your symptoms.