Protect Yourself Against the Flu
Each year, at least 30 million Americans experience influenza, or “the flu,” an acute upper respiratory tract infection caused by the influenza A and B viruses. Although many of these infections are only mild to moderate, yearly at least 20,000 people in the United States die from the flu and its complications, and more than 100,000 flu patients are hospitalized.
- 1 What are the symptoms of flu?
- 2 When should I receive a flu shot?
- 3 Who should get a flu shot?
- 4 I’ve heard that getting a flu shot can actually cause the flu. Is this true?
- 5 How is the flu treated?
- 6 FYI Links:
What are the symptoms of flu?
Symptoms of the flu usually are vague, occur suddenly and often include:
- fever above 101
- muscle aches
- extreme fatigue
For healthy people, flu usually is not that dangerous. However, when flu hits people over 65 or those who have other medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, serious complications such as pneumonia can occur.
If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, it does not necessarily mean you have the flu. These symptoms can occur with other illnesses as well. Therefore, it’s important to check with your family doctor for an appropriate diagnosis.
When should I receive a flu shot?
“The best way to lessen your chances of getting the flu is to receive an annual flu shot,” says R. R., M.D., director of emergency medicine at The Jewish Hospital. “In the United States, the peak flu season usually occurs between late December and early March. The best time to receive the flu vaccine is during October through November.”
Who should get a flu shot?
The flu shot can be given to anyone who is at least six months of age. It is strongly recommended for people at high risk for complications of influenza, such as pneumonia. These include:
- persons age 65 years or older
- residents of nursing homes and other facilities that house persons of any age who have chronic medical conditions
- adults and children who have chronic disorders, such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes or kidney dysfunction.
- children and teenagers (age 6 months to 18 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and may be at risk for developing
- Reye syndrome after influenza
- women who will be in the second or third trimester of pregnancy during the flu season.
The vaccine is also recommended for people who can easily transmit the flu to high risk groups. These people include:
- physicians, nurses, home care providers and other health care workers
- employees of nursing homes and assisted living or chronic-care facilities who have contact with patients or residents
- household members (including children) of persons in high-risk groups.
I’ve heard that getting a flu shot can actually cause the flu. Is this true?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the influenza vaccine produced in the United States cannot cause influenza. The only type of influenza vaccine that has been licensed in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause infection.
How is the flu treated?
Unfortunately for flu, you sometimes just have to wait it out and treat the symptoms. Get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids. An over-the-counter pain reliever, antihistamine or decongestant can help you feel better while you wait it out. If symptoms persist, contact your physician. This can be an indication of a secondary infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
“If you are at high risk for complications of the flu, call your family physician when you experience the first signs of flu symptoms,” says Dr. R. “This may help prevent a visit to the emergency department or a stay in the hospital.”
There are some prescription antiviral drugs available to lessen the severity and the duration of your symptoms if taken early in the course of the illness. Four antiviral agents have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat uncomplicated cases of the flu. Two new drugs, Relenza and Tamiflu, are approved for the treatment of both influenza A and B (the two main strains). Tamiflu has also been approved for prevention in persons who have been exposed to the flu (for age 13 and older). Two older antivirals—Symmetrel and Flumadine—are approved for the treatment of influenza A and are also effective in preventing the illness.
You have to see a doctor to obtain a prescription for these agents, and you must begin taking them within 1 – 2 days of symptoms in order to be effective. Doctors stress, however, that the antiviral drugs are not a substitute for the flu vaccine.
The CDC keeps this information updated on a regular basis.
Can you get it more than once? Go here to find out.
Fluwatch provides real-time flu information–where it is and who prevalent it is.
Healthy Living Article List
|For Women||For Seniors||Fighting Cancer||Your Heart||Emergency 101|
|Work Smart||Bones, Muscles and Joints||Nutrition News||Advice From Our Docs|