Answers to Common Flu Questions

Answers to Common Flu Questions

As the months turn colder and winter approaches, it’s time to think about the upcoming influenza season. Just like you prepare your home for the worst of the winter elements by insulating windows, buying a shovel, or salting your driveway, you should prepare your body to fight the influenza virus. One of your best defenses against the flu is arming yourself with education – learn about the flu and go out into winter prepared to fight not only the worst winter storm, but the influenza virus, too. Here are some important questions and answers about influenza to help you prepare:

Q: When is flu season?

A: The influenza season generally begins in October and can run into May.

Q: What are signs and symptoms of the flu? How is it different from a cold?

A: Colds and the flu are both caused by viruses that infect your respiratory tract (nose, airway and lungs). Typical signs and symptoms associated with the flu include fever, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and extreme fatigue. Symptoms tend to start quickly and are usually more severe than the common cold. Influenza can cause serious complications including pneumonia, while colds generally do not. Neither colds nor the flu can be cured with antibiotics.

Q: I think I have the flu. What should I do?

A: As with any viral upper respiratory infection, the influenza virus will run its course and most people will get better without treatment.

If you have flu symptoms:

  • In most cases, you should stay at home, rest, and avoid contact with others.
  • Treatments such as cough medications, decongestants, nasal sprays, and fever reducers can all help relieve your symptoms.
  • If you are in a high-risk group (children under 2, over 65 years old, pregnant, have asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or HIV/AIDS), contact your healthcare provider, who can determine if influenza testing and antiviral therapy are needed. It is best to start taking the medication within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms.

Q: Why should I bother with a flu shot? I got it once, and it gave me the flu and made me sick.

A: The flu shot cannot give you the flu. The influenza vaccine comes in multiple forms: the flu shot, which is an inactivated (killed) form of the virus, or a nasal spray made from a live virus that has been weakened and cannot cause the flu.

Q: Does the flu vaccine work as soon as I get it?

A: No. It takes your body about two weeks to produce antibodies to fight the influenza virus once you are vaccinated. That’s why it’s important to get your flu shot as early as you can.

Q: Can I still get the flu, even if I get a flu vaccine?

A: Yes; there are a couple of reasons this is possible. First, if you have been exposed to the flu virus before you get vaccinated, you may develop the flu because your body has not had enough time to build antibodies to protect you from the virus. Second, the flu vaccine is made to protect you against what are thought to be the most common versions of flu for the season, but other strains of influenza that are not part of the vaccine may be in your community. Lastly, some people do not develop enough resistance to the flu virus despite being vaccinated. This depends on many factors including age and your general health. While the flu shot is not perfect, it is your best defense against influenza infection.

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