Flu Season Again! How Can You Tell If It’s The Flu Or Just A Cough?

By Mary Burns, RN, BS
PERF Executive Vice President

With the flu you often get

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • extreme fatigue
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches

Flu is mostly spread through coughs and sneezes, which create respiratory droplets containing the virus.  They float in the air for you to inhale, or they settle on something you then touch and eventually carry to your mouth

Your best everyday defense against all this contamination is frequent hand washing. Those little bottles of alcohol-based hand rubs are great for the times you can’t get at soap and water.  The next defense, sad to say, is avoiding unnecessary contact with children. Lets face it.  Even the cutest is not very careful about hand washing or avoiding friends equally disinterested in soap and water.

Modern science has provided us with the best defense of all, the influenza vaccine, better known as the flu shot. Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection. Your annual flu shot protects you against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.

Can I get the flu from the vaccine?

No, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal spray. The flu shot contains inactivated (killed) flu viruses that cannot cause illness.

Traditional flu vaccines, called “trivalent,” are made for protection against three flu viruses, and there is also a new flu vaccine made to protect against four flu viruses. These quadrivalent vaccines protect against the same viruses as the standard trivalent vaccine plus an additional B virus. If you are high risk, ask your physician if it is recommended for you, but also be sure to call your pharmacy.  Not all of them carry the quadrivalent vaccine.

Your annual flu vaccine protects you against the influenza viruses research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. It is especially important to get the vaccine if you, someone you live with, or someone you care for is at high risk of complications from the flu.

Get the vaccine as soon as it’s available in your area. Flu season usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as late as May. Early immunization is best, but it’s not too late to get the vaccine in December, January, or beyond.

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