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Seasonal Flu

Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.


What is the flu?

Influenza or the "flu" is a very contagious virus that infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, airways, & lungs). In many ways the flu is similar to a common cold although it is characterized by an abrupt onset & more severe symptoms.


What are the symptoms of the flu?

The symptoms of the flu usually begin suddenly within 1-4 days of exposure. They include:

  • High temperature (100 or more)
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Weakness
  • Stuffy nose
  • Occasionally, a sore throat

Symptoms, including fever, often last for 3-5 days, with milder symptoms, such s fatigue and cough, lasting for several weeks.


How did I get the flu?

The influenza virus is very contagious & easily spread to others. Often, the virus is spread from tiny moisture droplets released into the air after a cough or sneeze. A person with the flu can continue to spread the virus for 3-4 days after symptoms begin. Exposure to the virus can happen in any setting where the droplets have been released.


How should I treat the flu?

It is important to remember that the flu is a VIRUS. Antibiotics have NO effect on the flu and their use, if unnecessary, can promote antibiotic resistance. Prescription antiviral medications have been shown to decrease the duration of severe flu symptoms (by about one day) if started within the first 48 hours of symptoms.

Symptomatic Treatment is VERY IMPORTANT & should include:

  • REST!
  • Increased liquids (water, sports drinks, tea, broth)
  • Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for the fever and aches
  • Cough medication if needed
  • Nasal decongestants (if needed)
  • Sore throat medications (if needed)
  • Some suggested medications include TheraFlu, Tylenol Sore Throat, Robitussin DM, & Chloraseptic Spray. WATCH FOR SIMILAR INGREDIENTS AND INTERACTIONS
  • Take ALL medications as PRESCRIBED & DO NOT skip doses.


Should I see a provider?

If your symptoms represent the flu & it is within the first 24-48 hours it is reasonable to see a provider. Otherwise following the symptomatic treatment above should lead to a full recovery. In some cases, complications may arise, including pneumonia, bacterial sinus & ear infections, & worsening of underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.

Seek medical attention if you have any of the following:

  • Fever over 100 degrees (greater than 5 days)
  • Cough with discolored or bloody mucus
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Severe facial pain or earache
  • Symptoms not resolving after 7 days or that return after getting better

For more information on the flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control website or contact the Health and Wellness Center at 395-2102 if you suspect you have the flu and need to make an appointment. Or contact your local provider.


How can I prevent the flu?

  • DON'T drink out of someone's else cup, glass, can, water bottle etc...!
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze!
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet! Make sure you get your 5 A Day - fruits and vegetables.
  • Take a multivitamin & make sure you get your Vitamin C!
  • Get plenty of exercise - it helps build your immune system!
  • Take the stairs instead!
  • Wash your hands often! If you can't, use antibacterial gel!
  • Get lots of fresh air!
  • Open doors and windows whenever possible!
  • Try to eliminate stress as much as possible!

Why should I get vaccinated?

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that the following priority groups receive a flu shot

  • Persons aged >65 years with or without long-term health conditions
  • Persons aged 2--64 years with long-term health conditions
  • Long-term health conditions include:
    • Heart, lung, and/or kidney disease
    • Asthma
    • Metabolic disease (Diabetes)
    • Anemia & other blood disorders
    • Conditions that can cause breathing problems (Neuromuscular disorders)
    • Weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs, long-term steroid treatment
  • Residents of long-term--care facilities
  • Children aged 6-23 months
  • Pregnant women
  • Health-care personnel who provide direct patient care
  • Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children aged <6 months

Source: CDC www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5434a4.htm