FastMed’s 2013 Seasonal Flu and Flu Shot Q&A, brought to you by:
|Michael P. Dunn, MD
President and Chief Medical Officer, Arizona
|Melvin G. Lee, MD
Chief Medical Officer, North Carolina
What is the flu?
The flu (short for influenza), is a virus that attacks the body by spreading through the upper and lower respiratory system. The flu is extremely contagious and is spread when you inhale droplets in the air that contain the flu virus, or make direct contact with respiratory secretions through shared drinks, utensils, or handling items contaminated by an infected person. On your skin, the flu virus can infect you when you touch or rub your eyes, nose, or mouth. Influenza can cause a mild to severe illness, and on occasion lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
What are the most common flu symptoms?
All forms of the flu can cause:
- Fever (temperature higher than 100ºF or 37.8ºC)
- Headache or body aches
- Less common symptoms are sore throat and a runny nose.
Is the flu dangerous?
It can be. Most people get over the flu on their own, without any lasting problems. But some people need to go to the hospital because of the flu. And some people even die from it. This is because the flu can cause a serious lung infection called pneumonia. That’s why it’s important to keep from getting the flu in the first place.
How can I protect myself from the flu?
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol hand rubs
- Stay away from people you know are sick
- Get the flu vaccine every year
What should I do if I get the flu?
If you think you have the flu, stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. You can also take acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol and other brands) to relieve fever and aches.
Do not give aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin to children younger than 18. In children, aspirin can cause a serious problem called Reye syndrome.
Most people with the flu get better on their own within 1 to 2 weeks. But you should call your doctor or nurse if you:
- Have trouble breathing or are short of breath
- Feel pain or pressure in your chest or belly
- Get suddenly dizzy
- Feel confused
- Have severe vomiting
Take your child to the doctor or the urgent care if he or she:
- Starts breathing fast or has trouble breathing
- Starts to turn blue or purple
- Is not drinking enough fluids
- Will not wake up or will not interact with you
- Is so unhappy that he or she does not want to be held
- Gets better from the flu but then gets sick again with a fever or cough
- Has a fever with a rash
If you decide to go to a FastMed clinic or a hospital because of the flu, tell someone right away why you are there. The staff might ask you to wear a mask or to wait someplace where you are less likely to spread your infection.
Whether or not you see a health care provider, you should stay home while you are sick with the flu. Do not go to work or school until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours, without taking fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen. If you work in a healthcare setting taking care of patients, you might need to stay home longer if you are still coughing. Also, always cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
Can the flu be treated?
Yes, people with the flu can get medicines called antiviral medicines. These medicines can help people avoid some of the problems caused by the flu. Not every person with the flu needs an antiviral medicine, but some people do. Your health care provider will decide if you need an antiviral medicine. Antibiotics DO NOT WORK on the flu.
What if I am pregnant?
The flu can be very dangerous for pregnant women. If you are pregnant, it is very important that you get the flu vaccine. You should also avoid taking care of anyone who has the flu.
If you are pregnant, talk to your health care provider or seek medical attention right away if:
- You might have been near someone with the flu.
- You think you might be coming down with the flu. In pregnant women, the symptoms of the flu can get worse very quickly. The flu can even cause trouble breathing or lead to death of the woman or her baby. That is why it is so important that you talk to your health care provider or seek medical attention as soon as you notice any of the flu symptoms listed above. You will need an antiviral medicine if you are pregnant and have the flu.
Is the season here?
As of late September early October, a number of flu cases have been reported throughout the state in rural communities and FastMed is recommending you get your flu shot now to avoid contracting it from someone who has or is recovering from the flu.
When is flu season?
While each flu season varies in virulence, the flu season usually begins in October and can last through May of the following year.
Does the flu vaccine really protect me from getting the flu?
Yes. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine reduces the odds of getting the flu by 70% to 90%. After receiving your vaccination, it can take up to 2 weeks for protection to develop. Children, women who are pregnant and those with a weak immune system or other health conditions are more susceptible to the flu and more severe symptoms.
I got my flu shot last year, do I need to get one this year?
Yes. An annual flu shot is important as influenza viruses are always changing. The upcoming season’s flu vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one or two influenza B viruses, depending on the flu vaccine.
FastMed Urgent Care can help!
If you are vaccinated you can avoid catching the flu, allowing you to enjoy your daily activities, and prevent absences from work or school. If you come down with the flu treatment can result in higher medical bills than if you had received your $20 flu vaccine at FastMed.
If you didn’t get your flu shot and now have the flu FastMed makes medical treatment convenient and accessible, with over 35 extended-hour walk-in locations throughout North Carolina that can prescribe antiviral medication to help you feel better and shorten the time you are sick.
Where can I go for more information on the flu?
For more information on the flu, vaccination and treatment visit www.cdc.gov/flu or http://www.flu.gov/.
Please note: While information found on FastMed.com, the CDC website and on other online sources is helpful, it is not intended to be medical advice or as a substitute for being evaluated by a licensed medical practitioner.
Reuel Heyden | Sr. Dir. of Marketing & Community Relations
FastMed Urgent Care