As the weather grows colder and the days shorter, flu season has already made its appearance. While the flu normally spreads most rapidly from December through March, according to federal health data, we are already seeing an early surge in cases and experts are warning that this year could be worse than previous years. According to the CDC, the flu causes 9 million to 41 million illnesses, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 52,000 deaths annually.
For some, the flu is a mild illness while others experience severe symptoms resulting in hospitalization. Some, including those with weakened immune systems, the very young (under age 2) and old (over age 65) are more prone to serious illness. Though it is difficult to predict the outcome. What we do know for sure is that flu vaccination is key to preventing serious illness and death.
What is the Flu?
Influenza, known most commonly as the flu, is caused by different influenza viruses. The virus is contagious and spreads easily from person-to-person through droplets that are released when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, or talks. If you’re within six feet of an infected person, you are being exposed!
If you’ve caught the flu, you may experience a variety of symptoms. Most commonly you’ll run a fever, have body aches, chills, congestion, coughing, fatigue and headaches. Other symptoms are possible, however, and every case is unique.
Without proper testing, it can be difficult to differentiate COVID-19 from the flu as the most common symptoms overlap. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consider visiting your doctor for a test and treatment recommendations. Flu and COVID-19 tests are quick and easy, and available at any RefuahHealth location. A proper diagnosis will not only guide your treatment, but it will help keep those around you safe and informed.
How is the flu treated?
Treatment options are available to help manage flu symptoms. Rest and constant hydration are key to managing most symptoms, which may last for 7 to 10 days. You can use a variety of over-the-counter medications based on your symptoms, including throat lozenges, decongestants, anti-inflammatories (like Motrin) or cough medicine. Make sure to check the labels for age and weight specifications, as some cough and decongestants are not safe for children and infants. If you have any doubt, reach out to your provider’s office. If symptoms persist, check-in with your healthcare provider who might prescribe an antiviral medication.
What About the Flu Shot?
While symptoms and severity may vary from one person to the next, what we do know for sure is that the flu vaccine is our best protection against hospitalization and death. Your body begins producing antibodies after the shot is administered, and by two weeks you’ll be protected.
Every year a different flu virus circulates and so the vaccine produced one year is different than the vaccine produced the previous year. That is why we must get the shot again each flu season.