The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May. Only influenza viruses cause the flu, while many different viruses can cause colds. There is a vaccine to prevent the flu, while there is no vaccine to prevent the common cold.
IS IT A COLD OR THE FLU?
· Symptoms that build over 48 hours
· Runny nose, watery eyes
· Stuffy nose and congestion
· Sneezing and coughing
· Sore throat
· Symptoms may last 3-10 days
· Fast onset of symptoms (especially fever and chills)
· Fever and chills
· Body aches and pains
· Weakness and fatigue
· Symptoms may last hours or days up to a week and may linger for up to 3 weeks
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
Some people are more likely to get flu-related complications (like pneumonia) or be hospitalized because of complications. These include:
· people with health conditions, such as:
· heart disease
· lung disease
· people 65 years and older
· people who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
· children under 5 years of age
· pregnant women
· Indigenous peoples
SHOULD I GO TO THE DOCTOR?
Colds and flu are not treated with antibiotics and rarely require a trip to the doctor. While the flu can occasionally be life-threatening for those with reduced immunity, for most people the best remedy for a speedy recovery from a cold or flu is usually rest and plenty of fluids.
Doctors recommend medical attention if you experience shortness of breath or trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or stomach, dizziness when standing, decreased urination, confusion, inability to keep fluids down, or a fever lasting more than 48 hours. If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your primary care doctor or urgent care as soon as possible.
HOW TO GET RELIEF
It might be hard to believe: but those aggravating and uncomfortable symptoms you’re experiencing from a cold or the flu are part of your body’s natural healing process. With each day that passes, your immune system is working hard to fight off the virus, so you can get better. Both colds and the flu require lots of rest, fluids and time. It’s best to let the virus run its course. In the meantime, there are some extra things you can do to feel better and experience that relief you’ve been craving like taking over the counter cold and flu medications that are specific to your symptoms.
HOW CAN FLU BE PREVENTED?
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine, also known as a flu shot. Flu vaccine is safe and effective. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Most people do not have reactions to the flu vaccine. Severe reactions are very rare.
Getting a flu vaccine is a simple action that can save lives by:
· protecting you if you are exposed to the virus
· preventing you from getting very sick
· helping protect other people because you are less likely to spread the virus to others
It is important that you get a new flu vaccine every year because the:
· effectiveness of the vaccine can wear off, so you need a new one every year to stay protected
· type of flu virus usually changes from year to year
· experts create a new vaccine to protect you each flu season
Ask your health care provider about getting the vaccine. This season's flu vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season.
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, you can also protect yourself and those around you from the flu by:
· washing your hands frequently
· coughing and sneezing into the bend of your arm, not into your hand
· avoiding touching your nose, mouth or eyes with your hands
· cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that a lot of people touch, such as:
· television remotes
· eating healthy foods and doing physical activities to keep your immune system strong
· getting plenty of rest or sleep
If you do get sick, stay home and avoid contact with other people until your symptoms are gone. This will help prevent the spread of the virus.
If you plan to travel, consult a health care provider or travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before leaving.