Flu season is once again upon us. At Urgent 9 – Urgent Care and Imaging Center, we want you to be prepared for the 2015-2016 flu season. So, here’s what you need to know about the flu for the upcoming season.
The “flu” is short for “influenza.” The flu is a virus that attacks the upper and lower respiratory tract. It is a common misconception that the flu entails nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is actually called “gastroenteritis.”
The flu is also commonly mistaken for the common cold – both involve the respiratory system. Similar symptoms include a cough, a sore throat, congestion, headaches and chest discomfort. However, the flu will also be accompanied by a high fever that may last several days, chills, body aches, and weakness. Unlike a cold, the flu has a tendency to develop into pneumonia, especially in the very young and the elderly.
The flu has no cure. It simply has to run its course. Antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir), have proven effective if taken within two days of getting sick. These medications can help shorten the duration of the illness, can lessen the symptoms and can prevent complications, such as pneumonia. Aside from a prescription for an antiviral medication, rest and proper intake of fluids are important.
There are several steps that can be taken to prevent becoming sick with the flu. Proper handwashing is perhaps one of the most important steps that can be taken. Avoiding contact with those that are ill is helpful. Avoiding touching the face – specifically the eyes, mouth and nose is important. In general, practicing good habits is essential – these include proper sleep, hydration, exercise, and staying hydrated. The flu shot is also recommended. The CDC recommends the flu shot to anyone over the age of 6 months. Typically, flu shots are available beginning in October, so it is wise to get vaccinated as early in flu season as possible.
Flu shots are typically covered by insurance. Check with your insurance provider if you have doubts that they will cover the vaccination. Certain employers will also pay for the vaccine. Otherwise, for the uninsured, the flu shot can cost anywhere from $5 to $30, depending on location.
The flu shot WILL NOT give you the flu. It is possible to still get the flu, even with the vaccine. If you are exposed to the flu before the flu shot has become effective, you may get the flu. The flu shot needs about 2 weeks before antibodies are developed that protect from the flu. The flu vaccine covers only the strains that the CDC predicts will be prevalent; if you come into contact with a different strain of the flu, you may become sick. However, there is good news – the vaccine may decrease the severity of the flu, should you develop it.