There are very few common illnesses that can make you feel quite as bad as the flu. Luckily, flu season occurs only once a year. But even one flu illness can be devastating for some patients.
“Flu” here means illness caused by Influenza virus types A and B. This is the respiratory flu, not the gastrointestinal flu. Classic symptoms of Influenza A or B are: fever (though not everyone with flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and tiredness. Some may experience vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. It seems your whole body is sick. The symptoms of respiratory flu usually come on suddenly and typically last 10 to 14 days, however, some may be ill for up to three weeks.
Influenza is mainly a clinical diagnosis. If there is flu in the community, and you present with the above symptoms, chances are good that you have the flu. There is a diagnostic test that can be performed. By obtaining some mucus from the nose, done by a nasal swab, a lab test can determine rather quickly whether or not you have Influenza.
If Influenza is diagnosed early in the illness, an antiviral medication can be prescribed that may shorten the course of the illness and lessen the severity of the symptoms. They may also prevent serious flu complications. If started in the first 24 to 48 hours of illness, antivirals may decrease the duration of fever and other symptoms. The sooner these are started, the better the chance of improvement. Antivirals might also be prescribed to prevent Influenza from spreading to an entire household. Fever reducers, pain relievers, decongestants, cough suppressants, rest and plenty of fluids will get you through the worst until you or your child feels well again.
What about prevention?
- Washing your hands regularly is a great start!
- Yearly flu shots are the most important step in protecting yourself against the flu.
- Flu vaccination can help keep you from getting sick with the flu. Several studies have shown it reduces severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.
- It can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization.
- It is an important preventive tool for people with certain chronic health conditions.
- During pregnancy, vaccination helps protect pregnant people from flu during and after pregnancy and helps protect their infants from flu in their first few months of life.
- Can be lifesaving in children.
- May also protect people around you.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- For flu, CDC recommends that people stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Fever should be gone without the need to use a fever-reducing medicine.
September and October are good times to get vaccinated. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later.
Click here to view our upcoming flu clinics at a location near you!
Anyone may receive their annual flu vaccine at any Prevea health centers. You do not need to go to the Prevea health center where your primary care provider is located. We strongly recommend that patients schedule an appointment. Visit www.myprevea.com, call your provider’s office or call (888) 277-3832.
Please check your insurance coverage prior to your appointment as we will bill your insurance company.
Flu Questions and Answers
Q: Does the flu vaccine give me the flu?
A: The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. Flu vaccines given with a needle (i.e., flu shots) are made with either inactivated (killed) viruses, or with only a single protein from the flu virus. The nasal spray vaccine contains live viruses that are attenuated (weakened) so that they will not cause illness.
The most common side effects from the flu vaccine are soreness, tenderness and redness as the injection site. Low-grade fever, headache, or muscle aches may occur, but should subside in one to two days. These symptoms are from your body’s immune system getting ready to fight the flu.
Q: Is it better to get the actual flu instead of the flu vaccine?
A: No. The flu can be a serious disease, especially for young children, older adults and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
Q: Do I need the flu vaccine every year?
A: Yes. It is recommended that everyone six months and older, that do not have risk factors to receiving the flu vaccine, should receive it annually. The immunity protection acquired from last season’s flu vaccine can decline. Receiving a flu vaccine annually better protects you for the upcoming flu season.
Q: Who should get a yearly flu vaccine?
A: The CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Flu shots are especially important for young children, pregnant women, people age 65 and older, and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease.
Vaccination of people at high risk is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. Many people at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19.
Q: Can I still get the flu even if I’ve had my flu vaccine?
A: There are many reasons why an individual can still develop flu or cold symptoms even after receiving the vaccine. These include:
- The person experiencing illness may have been exposed to influenza viruses prior to receiving their flu vaccine or during the two weeks following injection while the body was still developing immunity.
- There are many viruses in our environment besides flu that a person can acquire and develop symptoms similar to the flu.
- They acquired viruses that do not match the viruses selected to make the vaccine.
Q: Will my health care provider test me for flu if I have flu-like symptoms?
While your doctor may test you for flu, not everyone who goes to the doctor with flu-like symptoms will be tested. After evaluating you, your doctor may choose to diagnose you with flu without the need for testing based on your symptoms and his or her own clinical judgment.