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Facts about the flu

Who should get vaccinated? Everyone over the age of 6 months, with rare exception. It is the single best way to prevent the flu.

Why should you get vaccinated? Protect yourself and others. 1 in 3 people who get the flu may have no symptoms but can still pass it on to loved ones or coworkers who can get sick. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.* That’s approximately the number of people who die from breast cancer each year. Even if you never get sick, you should still get vaccinated.  I don’t get into a car accident every day, but I still put my seat belt on just in case. It’s nice to have insurance in case you need it.

When should you get vaccinated? The best time is NOW. It takes several weeks for your body to react and make antibodies to protect you from the flu. The vaccine provides 6 to 8 months of protection. Even if you are sick, it is ok to get the flu shot. We give it routinely to people in the hospital to protect them. If you are ill, your body needs even more protection. Even if you have already had the flu, you should still get the vaccine. There are more than one strain of flu. Getting vaccinated could prevent you from catching another flu.

The flu shot is not a live virus and CAN NOT cause the flu. You can catch the flu from other people around you (before your body builds up immunity) and think it was from the shot. The flu shot doesn’t protect against the common cold and you can catch this from others as well.

Where do you want the shot? So, the real question is not whether or when to get the shot but which arm, left or right. People under age 49 may also be able to get the vaccine as an inactivated virus sprayed in the nose.

COMPARISON OF COLDS, FLU, AND STREP THROAT FOR ADULTS 

Cold Flu (Influenza) Strep throat
Cause Many common viruses Influenza virus Bacteria
Onset Gradual Sudden Sudden
Symptoms   Stuffy/runny nose, congestion, sore throat, mild fatigue, headache, cough Symptoms like common cold but much more severe along with fever 100.4 or higher,
body aches, chills. May also have vomiting and diarrhea, especially in children.
Severe sore throat, fever over 101, swollen tonsils and glands in neck (without coughing, congestion, runny nose or other cold symptoms)
Prevention * Hand washing
* Cover up when you cough or sneeze
* Don’t rub eyes, nose or mouth
* Don’t share toothbrushes, eating and drinking utensils
* Avoid coming to clinic, Urgent Care, Emergency Room where you can catch infections from others
Same as for cold PLUS: GET THE FLU VACCINE EVERY YEAR Same as for cold
Treatment Antibiotics don’t help and can cause harm (nausea, diarrhea, rashes, allergic reactions, overgrowth of other or resistant bacteria). Rest and fluids. Treat symptoms that are most bothersome and avoid multi-drug combinations that treat symptoms you may not have. Make sure you don’t have any underlying condition that would prevent you from taking these medications.

Body aches/fever
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen. Many drugs contain acetaminophen. Don’t take more than 4,000mg in a day (or less if you drink or have liver problems).

Runny nose
Humidification
Nasal saline rinses
Decongestants
Nasal sprays (don’t use more than 3 days in a row)

Cough
Cough drops or syrup, fluids, tea with honey

Sore Throat
Gargle with warm salt water
Throat lozenges
Anesthetic throat sprays

It may take 1 to 3 weeks to run its course.

Same as for cold. In certain circumstances anti-viral medication may be useful in decreasing time of illness or in people with underlying immune problems.
It may take 1 to 3
weeks to run it’s
course.
Antibiotic if bacterial infection is confirmed with a throat swab.  You should not take antibiotics for sore throat on your own.
If antibiotics are prescribed, you should finish treatment even if you are feeling better.

If not a bacterial strep throat, treat symptoms as a viral infection. Over the counter medicines to reduce fever and pain, throat lozenges, throat anesthetic sprays, gargle, fluids, humidification.

Access more information on cold and flu symptoms and self care for adults and children here.

*According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention