If you haven’t already gotten your vaccination for the flu, now’s the time to do so! The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. However, you can still get vaccinated throughout the flu season – even into January.
Why get vaccinated for the flu?
Prevention is better than cure. Don’t wait until the flu has spread throughout your local community. It’s best to get vaccinated before flu starts spreading around. The CDC estimates that it takes approximately two weeks after you’ve been vaccinated for antibodies to develop to protect you against flu.
Benefits of Getting Vaccinated for Flu
- Reduces your risk of flu-associated hospitalization
- Is an important preventive tool for people who have chronic health conditions (ex: diabetes, lung disease, etc.)
- Helps protect pregnant women (both during and after pregnancy)
- Can also protect unborn babies from flu
- Can reduce symptoms if you do get sick
- Protects those around you from getting sick, particularly those with weakened/compromised immune systems (ex: babies, the elderly, people with chronic health conditions, etc.)
Common Cold vs. Flu – What’s the Difference?
Influenza (flu) and the common cold are both viral infections, but they are caused by different viruses. While they have symptoms that can overlap, the flu tends to have a sudden onset with more severe symptoms.
Typical flu-like symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Cold-like symptoms: Cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose.
The common cold has similar symptoms as the flu, but these are usually more mild and have a more gradual onset. Both influenza and the common cold will eventually resolve on their own in healthy people. However, influenza can cause complication in people who are considered to be ‘high risk’.
Treatment for the Flu
Unlike the common cold (which has no test), the flu can be diagnosed by a simple nasal swab. If detected via nasal swab, within 48 hours of symptom onset, treatment for the flu includes:
antiviral medication (Tamiflu)
- Supportive treatment with fluids
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Cough suppressants
What types of flu shots are there?
Even though there is a nasal spray vaccine that is FDA approved, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that the nasal spray vaccine should NOT be used during the 2017-2018 season. Only injectable flu shots are recommended at this time.
There are several injectable options available, some of which protect against three flu viruses while some protect against four flu viruses:
- Standard dose flu shots
- High-dose shots (for people 65+ years of age)*
- Shots made with adjuvant (for people 65+ years of age)*
- Shots made with virus grown in cell culture
- Shots made using a vaccine production technology that doesn’t require the use of flu virus
*The CDC does not have a preference for the type of flu shot patients over 65 years-old should receive, but they do recommend a flu shot for everyone over the age of 65.
At what age is it safe for children to get vaccinated for the flu?
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. Children 6 months through 8 years-old generally require two doses of vaccine the first year that they are immunized. Children who are 9 years-old or older receive one flu shot. [source: CDC]
When should I go to the emergency room for the flu?
You should head to the emergency room if you experience any of the following while you have the flu:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest/abdominal pain
- Severe vomiting
- High fevers
- Worsening of flu symptoms
Children should be brought to the emergency room if you notice:
- Inability to eat/drink fluids
- Having no tears when crying
- Less wet diapers (signs of dehydration)
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