Flu Facts: What You Need to Know To Stay Healthy This Season
About the flu
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. Now, more than ever with COVID-19 which symptoms can mimic the flu, getting a flu vaccine is essential!
Why do I need to vaccinate if I am healthy
Many people mistakenly believe that if they are relatively healthy, they don’t need a flu shot. But in fact, 4,605 people in the U.S. died from the flu last year. Even if you feel that you may not need the flu shot, it is important to get the vaccine so that you can protect your loved ones or those people whose immune systems are compromised.
Optimal timing for the flu vaccine
A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses and prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Now is a good time to get vaccinated. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for protection to set in.
One should receive the influenza vaccine as soon as the vaccine is available, preferably by October. Flu season is generally between November and April with peaks usually in January or February.
Symptoms of Flu vs a Cold
The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.
Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.
The Use of Tamiflu
Tamiflu is an antiviral medication that can be used to treat influenza infection and reduce duration and severity. It must be started within 48 hours of flu symptoms. If you have already been exposed to the flu, but you don’t have any symptoms, you can take Tamiflu for up to 6 weeks to help prevent you from getting sick.
Other ways to stay healthy during flu season
The flu vaccine is your best option for flu prevention, but there are a number of other ways to avoid contracting and spreading the virus:
- Kill influenza viruses on surfaces using chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols. Human influenza viruses generally can survive on surfaces between 2 and 8 hours.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol or non-alcohol based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.