It is still flu season! I have been surrounded by flu for 1 entire month while on Urgent Care, so it is the perfect time to get this out there.
We’re about to talk about what the flu is, what the symptoms are, how it is treated, what you can do to prevent getting it as well as possible side effects of not protecting yourself against it.
First of all, the flu is NOT a bacterial infection. It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.☔️
Side note: It is NOT the same as the common cold or the stomach flu
Hm: These sound pretty similar to a cold…so how do you know the difference? The flu can cause a HIGH FEVER, whereas a fever from a cold is actually a bit rare.
The flu will also hit you SUDDENLY and HARD.
Of note, the flu oftentimes leads to serious secondary infections like pneumonia or bronchitis, especially in high-risk groups.
SYMPTOMS IN KIDS
Symptoms vary..they can be mild, to severe, and can even cause death. So YES. You should get tested early, so you can be treated early.☔️
When is FLU SEASON?
[OCTOBER – MARCH but may go well into MAY] And it PEAKS in FEBRUARY! Lucky for us, the CDC made a nice little chart, which I have attached below:
As Doctors, we focus a lot on AT RISK groups of people. Certain age groups, certain chronic medical conditions increase your risk of not only getting the flu but experiencing worse illness and even hospitalization.
WHO IS AT RISK?
- ≥65years old
- Pregnant Women
- Immunocompromised (HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Chronic Steroids)
So even if you don’t want a flu shot to protect yourself… Get it to protect your loved ones who are at risk of worsening symptoms and even hospitalizations.
HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED?
- Respiratory droplets: Coughing, Sneezing: These can reach as far as 6 feet!
- You can pass it along even 1 day before having a symptom, to 5-7 days after symptoms starting
- You can even get it from touching an infected surface and then touching your face, eyes, mouth.
OUTBREAKS ARE COMMON IN CERTAIN PLACES TOO:
- Wherever people congregate!
- Communities with a large number of ≥65 and older residents
- More people = more contacts = more opportunities to encounter someone who is sick
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT IT?
- Wash your hands! Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth after touching doors, tablets, etc.
- Disinfect surfaces
- Stay home when you are sick to avoid getting other people sick
- Avoid contact with those who are sick
- GET VACCINATED!
Now, I know that lately, the flu vaccine has not been very efficient because people who have had the shot are still getting the flu. So let’s address a very common question:
Why should I get the shot if it doesn’t even work?
Every year a new flu vaccine is created based on the “most likely to be present” strains. This means, that if a different strain of the flu comes around, which is not covered in the flu shot for the season…you can get the flu.
I hope that makes sense!
Did you guys know that there is a SUPER FLU SHOT? Ha! I know… it’s not because I love superheroes because I do. It’s actually just a High Dose Flu and it is about 24.2% more effective in preventing the flu in those ≥65 and older than the standard dose.
There is also a lower risk of hospital admission compared with the standard dose; Especially if those ≥65 and older live in a long-term care facility.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?
Just like the standard dose, and reported more frequently with the high dose, these are mild and temporary ☔️
- Redness at the injection site
- Muscle aches
The majority of people actually have either minimal or no adverse effects at all.☔️
Another common question is:
“What if I have an EGG ALLERGY?”
If your allergy = hives and itchy skin.. you can get the vaccine safely
BUT, even if you have severe swelling of lips, face, respiratory issues, recurrent vomiting or if you’ve needed epinephrine for it in the past… YOU CAN STILL GET IT, just make sure you’re in a clinic setting or hospital setting where you can be appropriately treated if needed.
But why do doctors like me make such a fuzz about the flu vaccine or have the flu?
Because of the POSSIBLE: COMPLICATIONS
- Sinus infections
- Ear infections
It can make a stable chronic condition WORSE
- Congestive heart failure
[To the point that you may need to be hospitalized]
TREATMENT AND BENEFITS?
- Antivirals are mostly recommended for those ≥65 years old.
- They shorten the duration of being sick by 1-2 days
- If you are high risk, then it can decrease the severity of the symptoms and keep you OUT of the hospital
- Antivirals work best if given WITHIN 48hours of getting sick
- And lastly, you can receive prophylactic treatment (preventive) if one of your family members has the flu and you’ve been exposed to it.
You can, of course, stay at home and rest if you’re not in the high-risk group, hydrate, sleep, etc.☔️
When should you, GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM?
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Dizziness or unable to wake up
- Not Urinating
- Severe muscle pain
- Severe weakness or unsteadiness
- Fever or Cough, which got better AND then WORSENED.
- Any worsening in your current medical conditions like ASTHMA, COPD, CHF
As always! I hope this stuff was useful. I know it is a lot of information.
The points to really take home are:
- Get the flu shot
- See your doctor early
- Get treated early
- Go to the Emergency Room if you get worse or can’t breath