Flu season is right around the corner. “The flu” (AKA influenza) is most prevalent from November to April each year. This virus has many strains, or forms, and is always changing and mutating to stay one step ahead of our immune system. Signs of the flu include fever, chills, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, fatigue, and muscle/body aches. Fortunately we have a couple weapons against it. Getting immunized with a flu shot drastically reduces your chances of getting the flu. The flu vaccine is available through several local doctors and pharmacies. If you do catch the flu, retroviral medicines like Tamiflu® can lessen the severity of the sickness if taken within two days of becoming sick.
The common cold is often confused with the flu. Colds present with some of the same symptoms as the flu. You may have a runny nose, sore throat, mild cough, and lasts anywhere from 3-7 days. Fever and body aches are more indicative of the flu. See your doctor if you think you have a flu symptoms.
The flu vaccine is available in three forms: the standard intramuscular injection, the nasal spray, and an intradermal (in the skin) injection, which is new this year. Anyone can get a flu shot but it is especially recommended for children under 5, people over 50, pregnant women, healthcare workers, and those with weakened immune systems due to chronic medical conditions. It is estimated that around 23,000 people die from flu or flu complications each year in the U.S. The CDC recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it is available each year, which is usually around October. The vaccine protects against the three most common flu strains from last year. And, contrary to popular belief, it is IMPOSSIBLE to contract the flu from the vaccine, although it takes about two weeks for your immune system to build up immunity after getting it.
For further reference see the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/