Flu season has arrived! Flu starts in early fall and continues throughout the spring. It’s important to make sure you and your family are protected in the right ways from the flu and know what steps to take if you’re feeling sick this winter. Dr. Joanne Fruth is answering your top questions about the flu, so you can be prepared no matter what comes.
1. How do I know the difference between the flu and a cold?
Symptoms of the flu are generally more intense than the common cold. The flu tends to come on quickly, like being “hit by a ton of bricks” and is associated with more body aches, headache, fatigue, and fever than the typical symptoms of a cold: sore throat, runny nose and cough. Colds usually don’t lead to serious complications or death.
2. What is the flu?
Influenza, also called the flu, is a contagious respiratory infection that spreads in the fall and winter in our area and can cause a flu epidemic. It is caused by Type A and B influenza viruses. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, weakened immune systems and heart and lung conditions are at higher risk of serious flu complications.
3. If I’m feeling sick, when should I go to the doctor?
Most people with flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. Symptoms can usually be managed at home. Seek treatment if you are at higher risk for complications or if you are concerned about your illness. Here is a list of emergency warning signs of flu: CDC Advice on Flu
4. Can my doctor do anything for me if I have the flu?
If you are in a higher-risk group and develop symptoms, it’s best to contact your doctor early in your illness. People in high-risk groups should get antiviral treatment within 2 days after the onset of illness.
5. What can I do to manage my symptoms at home?
If you have flu symptoms, stay away from other as much as possible. If you do have to leave home, wear a facemask, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands often. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
The rest of the treatment involves symptom management until your body can recover. Rest and keep yourself hydrated with water and other clear liquids. Over the counter fever reducers can also help with aching and muscle pain. There are some common over the counter treatments that can be used for various symptoms along with non-pharmacological options. Children and teenagers with flu symptoms should not take aspirin or any product containing salicylate (like Pepto Bismol) due to the rare by serious complication called Reye’s syndrome.
6. How do you know if it’s the flu or COVID-19?
It’s hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu. Both conditions can cause fever and chills, body aches, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting or diarrhea. Covid can cause loss of smell and taste, but not everyone with Covid has this symptom.
It you’re in a high-risk group, it’s important to find out if you have Covid or influenza so you may be treated with the appropriate medication within two days of getting symptoms. Don’t hesitate to do a home Covid test if you have symptoms.
7. When do I know I’m no longer contagious?
Most healthy adults are contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 – 7 days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.
If you have flu symptoms, stay away from others as much as possible. If you do have to leave home, wear a facemask, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands often. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
As with any treatment, be sure that you consult with your provider, as not all treatments are appropriate for all people.
To protect yourself and your family from the flu, get your flu shot today at participating Avance Care locations. Visit here to contact your location about getting your flu shot.