Flu 101: Everything You Should Know About the Flu
The summer is coming to an end and school is back in session. It can only mean one thing: fall is just around the corner. With fall comes football season, cooler weather, changing leaves, and unfortunately flu season. It is important to know how to protect yourself and your family from the flu and the complications that may come with it. For more information about the flu, the flu shot, or Tamiflu do not hesitate to contact your doctor or your Economy Pharmacy Pharmacist.
- What is the flu?
The flu (or influenza) is a respiratory virus that is common during the months of November though February. The flu is spread through droplets made when people cough or sneeze and through improper hand washing. Common flu symptoms include cough, sore throat, body aches, and fever. For most healthy children, adolescents, and adults the flu lasts about 5-7 days and goes away by itself. Unfortunately, in some high-risk people the flu can lead to serious complications, like pneumonia.
- How can I best protect myself from the flu?
The two best ways to protect you and your family from the flu is getting the flu shot every year and proper hand hygiene. Because the flu virus can rapidly change, it is important to get a flu shot every year to provide the best protection. The flu shot, typically takes about two weeks to work, so getting the flu shot at least two weeks before the flu season can better protect you and your family.
- Will the flu shot give me the flu?
This is a very common question that gets asked every year. The flu shot is made with a piece of the virus that is not alive and cannot cause disease. Although the flu shot doesn’t cause the flu itself, you may experience headache, soreness at the injection site, and fatigue within a few days after the shot. This is a normal response, caused by your body powering up its immune system and getting ready to provide protection.
- Can I still get the flu after getting the flu shot?
Unfortunately, you can still get the flu after receiving the flu shot. The flu shot effectiveness varies from year to year because the influenza virus can change unpredictably. It is still important to get vaccinated because the flu shot will always provide some level of protection, regardless of how effective it is that year. If you do get the flu and you received your flu shot, it is typically less severe and shorter in duration.
You can also get the flu if you are exposed before the flu shot starts working and providing protection, which is about two weeks after the vaccination.
- Who should get the flu shot?
Everyone over the age of 6 months old should get the flu shot annually.
Some people are more at risk for complications from the flu and it is highly recommended for them to receive a flu shot each year. People at high-risk include: pregnant women, children younger than 5, adults over the age of 65, and people with chronic conditions (asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, or a weak immune system)
- What should I do if I get the flu?
If you get the flu, it is important to stay home from work or school to avoid spreading the virus. In most, cases the flu will resolve by itself and the symptoms can be treated. Staying hydrated, resting, and taking medications to relieve fever and body aches can provide relief while your body fights off the virus. You should stay home and avoid other people for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
If you are someone at a higher risk of complications (see list above) or are worried about your illness, contact your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to help shorten the duration of the flu and prevent complications.
Unless you have difficulty breathing or other serious symptoms (confusion, dizziness, chest pain), you should avoid going to the emergency room. If you are not sick with the flu and go to the emergency room, you may get exposed to the flu or another infection.
- Should I be prescribed medication for the flu?
Certain antivirals, can be used to treat the flu. Tamiflu (generic: oseltamivir) is the most common medicine prescribed to treat and prevent the flu. Tamiflu can shorten the duration of the flu and decrease the risk of complications from the flu. Tamiflu is only effective if started within 48 hours of having flu symptoms.
Tamiflu can also be taken to prevent the flu. It is commonly given to whole families when one family member gets the flu to help prevent the spread of the illness.
It is important to remember that antibiotics cannot treat the flu in any way. Antibiotics can only treat illness caused by bacteria, not viruses.