Think You Have The Flu Call Your Doctor Asap
If you feel sick with symptoms like a fever and cough, phone your doctor right away. To get a firm diagnosis you will likely need both a flu test and a COVID-19 test.
The flu might seem like the lesser of two evils, but dont underestimate it. The flu can take a normal, healthy person and put them in the emergency room in 48 hours, says Schaffner. Thats how powerful it can be.
The good news? The flu can be treated with antiviral medication if caught early. Unlike over-the-counter drugs that temporarily alleviate symptoms, such as congestion, fever, and body aches, prescription antivirals can shorten the duration of the flu by one to two days. These drugs also help reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent serious health complications related to the virus.
But in order to get the maximum effect of this medication, Schaffner says, you have to call early. Antiviral medication is most effective within two days after flu symptoms strike. It can still be beneficial outside that window, though, especially if youre already at increased risk of flu complications.
What Are The Symptoms Of Flu
Flu symptoms hit you suddenly and sometimes severely. They usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, and you can often get a cough and sore throat at the same time. Flu is caused by viruses and not bacteria, so antibiotics wont treat it.
People sometimes think a bad cold is flu, but having flu can be much worse than a cold and you may need to stay in bed for a few days if you have flu.
Do I Need To Get The Flu Vaccine Every Year
The flu vaccine is needed every year for two reasons.
The first is that your bodys immune response to influenza decreases over time. Receiving the vaccine every year helps you have continued protection.
The second reason is that the influenza virus is constantly changing. This means that the viruses that were prevalent in the previous flu season may not be in the upcoming season.
The flu vaccine is updated every year to include protection against the influenza viruses most likely to circulate in the upcoming flu season. A seasonal flu shot is the most effective protection.
recommends that children over 6 months of age receive the flu vaccine. Children under 6 months old are too young to receive the vaccine.
Flu vaccine side effects in babies are similar to those in adults. They may include:
- low-grade fever
- muscle aches
- soreness at the injection site
Some children between ages 6 months and 8 years may need two doses. Ask your childs doctor how many doses your child needs.
Pregnant women should get the flu vaccine every year. Changes in your immune system during pregnancy lead to an increased risk of severe illness or hospitalization due to influenza.
Both the and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend pregnant women get the seasonal flu shot in any trimester of pregnancy.
While additional studies need to be completed to investigate this concern, both the
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Can The Flu Shot Prevent Covid
It is not designed to do so, and we have no solid evidence that it does. But some recent, yet preliminary and limited, studies suggest that it could. One study published on a preprint server in September that has not yet been peer reviewed found that of nearly 18,000 employees at a Dutch hospital, those who received a previous flu vaccine were 37 to 49 percent less likely to get sick with Covid-19 during the first and second coronavirus waves, respectively,than those who didnt get the flu shot.
Researchers have been speculating that the flu vaccine might spark a broad immune response that could help prevent other infections, including Covid-19. And while there is growing interest in this theory, and other studies have found similar associations, its hard to know whether these effects are causal or just coincidental, Dr. Fradin said.
The best way to prevent Covid-19,she added,is to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
The Russian Flu Epidemic Of 1889
Known as the Russian Flu, this influenza outbreak is believed to have begun in St. Petersburg but it soon spread across Europe and the world. It was one of the first epidemics that was covered regularly by the developing daily press. Newspapers wrote about the local spread of the disease and also discussed the situation in other distant European cities thanks to telegraph reports. It is estimated that around 1 million people died of the Russian Flu.
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How Dangerous Is The Flu
You may think you never get the flu, but Dr. Mossad says thats a common misconception.
The odds are about 10% to 20% of the population get infected with influenza every year, whether they have been diagnosed or not, says Dr. Mossad. If they think they never get the flu, they dont know because they either didnt get tested or because they think they never get sick from a viral illness.
Common colds and the flu are different from one another, but they certainly have similar symptoms. The real trouble occurs when the flu makes other underlying conditions worse, such as heart disease, lung disease, emphysema, heart failure, liver failure and more. And even when youre at peak health, the flu could lead to heart or muscle inflammation, making it difficult to move or be active, and even lead to secondary bacterial pneumonia.
Pneumonia is a lung infection in which the airways become inflamed and the air sacs of the lungs become filled with fluid. It can be life-threatening. Children under age 2, pregnant women, adults over 65 and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk for developing pneumonia.
That could put people in the hospital and require them to be on a breathing machine, says Dr. Mossad.
When To See A Doctor
People should try to see a doctor within 24 to 48 hours after flu symptoms appear, as this is when antiviral treatments are most effective.
It is also important to see a doctor if symptoms do not improve after 7 days or new symptoms, such as ear pain, appear.
People should seek emergency medical treatment if:
- breathing becomes difficult or labored
- muscle pain is unbearable or severe enough to prevent walking
- a child develops a fever above 104°F
- when breathing, a child or infant makes loud sounds or pulls in the muscles around their ribs
- a person has seizures, loses consciousness, seems confused, or is unable to communicate effectively
- a baby under the age of 12 weeks develops a fever
- symptoms of chronic medical conditions get worse
- there is intense dizziness that does not go away after a few hours
- a person stops urinating or urinates very rarely
- symptoms get better but then return later and are worse
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Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 Now If:
- you’re worried about your baby’s or child’s symptoms
- you’re 65 or over
- you’re pregnant
- you have a long-term medical condition for example, diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
- you have a weakened immune system for example, because of chemotherapy or HIV
- your symptoms do not improve after 7 days
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.
What To Do If You Have Flu
It is important to remember that for most people, flu is a mild illness that can be treated at home with rest, drinking plenty of fluids and taking medicine, such as paracetamol, as directed to control the symptoms.
You should not go to an emergency department unless it is urgent and essential.
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Am I At Greater Risk From The Effects Of Seasonal Flu
Even if you feel healthy, you should consider having the free seasonal flu vaccine if you have:
- a heart problem
- a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis or emphysema
- a kidney disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment
- a liver disease
- had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack
- a neurological condition, for example multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy
- a problem with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
You should also think about getting the flu vaccine if you are:
- aged 65 years or over
- living in a residential or nursing home
- the main carer of an older or disabled person
- a frontline health or social care worker, or
Dont wait until there is a flu outbreak this winter: contact your GP or practice nurse now to get your seasonal flu jab.
What To Expect With The Flu
Symptoms of the flu hit very quickly and may last several weeks. A bout of the flu typically follows this pattern:
- Days 13: Sudden appearance of fever, headache, muscle pain and weakness, dry cough, sore throat and sometimes a stuffy nose.
- Day 4: Fever and muscle aches decrease. Hoarse, dry or sore throat, cough and possible mild chest discomfort become more noticeable. You may feel tired or flat.
- Day 8: Symptoms decrease. Cough and tiredness may last one to two weeks or more.
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Suppressing Covid Setting The Stage For Flu
The scientists say that the increased flu risk we could be facing are due to the pandemic suppression measures weve all been practicing.
And it makes sense.
They point out that between social distancing, masking and lockdowns, weve effectively been keeping flu from circulating too.
But now that many of us are getting back to at least a somewhat more normal life, thats suppression is going down.
In the short term, measures to control the spread of the coronavirus will likely continue to suppress the number of influenza infections, but after these measures are relaxed, with greater population-wide immune susceptibility to influenza could lead to a large outbreak, says senior author Sen Pei, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental health sciences.
They say that over the last decade, U.S. influenza deaths ranged from 12,000 in 2011-12 to 61,000 in 2017-2018.
Common Symptoms Of A Cold The Flu And Covid
The chart below shows common symptoms. Not everyone will have these symptoms. Your symptoms may be more or less severe, or you may only have a few. If you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor
- Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Staying home when you are sick
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
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How Much Does Getting A Flu Vaccine Cost
Most people can get a flu vaccine for little to no out-of-pocket cost. Medicare and most private health insurance plans will cover the cost of your flu vaccine. However, some insurance plans require that you receive your vaccine at a specific location. Check with your insurance company. If you do not have health insurance, contact your local or state health department.
Who Should Worry About Flu
Most of us don’t spend much time worrying about the flu – and for many, an infection may be mild. However, influenza can become serious at any age, so should not be treated lightly. Those who are older or have underlying health conditions may be particularly vulnerable. As with COVID-19, even if we are healthy, we all need to be mindful of reducing the risk of illness to reduce the spread to those who are at risk.
“Flu should not be underestimated,” says Dr Griffin. “Despite vigorous surveillance and an extensive vaccination programme, we still see a significant number of deaths each year. The illness can be serious for anyone – it’s difficult to predict.”
Will we have a bad flu season this year?
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Managing Your Symptoms At Home
If you’re otherwise healthy, you can look after yourself at home by resting, keeping warm and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
If you’re concerned about coronavirus , be mindful of our ibuprofen advice on the coronavius page.
If you feel unwell and have a fever, you can take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to lower your temperature and relieve aches. Children under 16 shouldn’t be given aspirin.
Stay off work or school until you’re feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week. See your GP if your symptoms get worse or last longer than a week.
Read the page on preventing flu for more information about stopping the infection spreading to others.
How Long Does Flu Last And Is It Serious
If you have flu, you generally start to feel ill within a few days of being infected.
You should begin to feel much better within a week or so, although you may feel tired for much longer.
You’ll usually be most infectious from the day your symptoms start and for a further 3 to 7 days. Children and people with weaker immune systems may remain infectious for longer.
Most people will make a full recovery and won’t experience any further problems, but elderly people and people with certain long-term medical conditions are more likely to have a bad case of flu or develop a serious complication, such as a chest infection.
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Does It Matter Where And When I Get The Shot
Its fine to get a flu shot wherever they are offered, including at flu clinics, pharmacies, health departments or doctors offices, Dr. Palese said.
The C.D.C. usually recommends that everyone get vaccinated by the end of October at the latest. Given that population immunity against the flu is probably low, Dr. Gandhi said, its possible that the flu will peak earlier than usual . Also, it takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop full immunity, so if you havent yet gotten it, run out and get the flu vaccine immediately, she said.
Some kids specifically children between 6 months and 8 years old who have never received a flu vaccine, as well as those who have only ever received one dose should get two doses of the flu vaccine, at least four weeks apart, said Dr. Kelly Fradin, a pediatrician at Private Medical in New York City.
That said, even if its late in a flu season, it still is worthwhile to get a vaccine. The protection from the flu shot likely builds, even over years, said Dr. Fradin. If you get a vaccine after flu season has waned, it might anticipate the strains that will spread next season and provide some protection then, she said.
How To Get The Flu Vaccine
The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It’s offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading. But you can get the vaccine later.
The flu vaccine is given to people who:
- are 50 and over
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in a long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections
- frontline health or social care workers
You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
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How Is The Flu Diagnosed
Based on your symptoms and how you look, your doctor usually can tell if you have the flu. Most people who have it look ill and miserable.
Other infections can cause symptoms similar to the flu. So if a doctor needs to be sure that someone has the flu, they might do a test. They’ll take a sample of mucus by wiping a long cotton swab inside the nose or throat. Results might be ready quickly, or can take longer if the test is sent to a lab.
You may feel miserable if you get the flu, but it’s unlikely to be serious. It’s rare that healthy teens get other problems from the flu. Older adults , young kids , and people with ongoing medical conditions are more likely to become seriously ill with the flu.
Side Effects Of The Flu Vaccine
It’s important to understand that the flu vaccine does not cause the flu. But some people will experience reactions to flu vaccination, and these can be similar to flu symptoms. Most of these side effects are mild and tend to resolve on their own within a day or two.
These common side effects, however, are not necessarily symptoms of a serious reaction, like an allergy.
While there is a possibility of an allergic reaction to either type of flu vaccine, the actual incidence of flu vaccine allergy is low, affecting only one or two people out of every million doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
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Can The Flu Be Prevented
There’s no guaranteed way to avoid the flu. But getting the flu vaccine can help. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get it every year.
Flu vaccines are available as a shot or as a nasal spray. Both work equally well. This flu season , get whichever vaccine your doctor recommends. People with weak immune systems or some health conditions and pregnant women should not get the nasal spray vaccine.
What else can you do? Wash your hands well and often. Avoid sharing cups, utensils, or towels with others. If you do catch the flu, use tissues whenever you sneeze or cough to avoid spreading the virus.
During the coronavirus pandemic, experts found that wearing masks can help protect the community from the spread of germs. They recommend that everyone wear a mask when out in public or around people who don’t live with them. Wearing masks can also help stop the spread of flu.
If you do get the flu this season, take care of yourself and call your doctor with any questions or concerns. When you’re feeling bad, remember that the flu usually lasts a week or less and you’ll be back to normal before too long.