The 2020 flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in years. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there have been at least 19 million flu illnesses as of late January 2020. As the virus continues to spread across the entire nation, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your whole family is protected.
The strongest defense against catching the flu is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. All children 6 months or older are eligible to receive a yearly flu shot, and children over 2 years old can receive the vaccine through a nasal spray. After vaccination, it typically takes the body about two weeks to generate the antibodies that protect against the flu. Children and seniors are more susceptible to severe flu symptoms than healthy adults, so it is especially imperative that they be vaccinated.
When Should I Go To The Doctor?
If you, your child, or your elderly parent have already caught the flu, however, the best chance you have to avoid the most severe symptoms is to identify it early. Once a doctor diagnoses your flu strain, they can prescribe medication that will keep the virus from multiplying in your body. From there, it’s a matter of keeping your strength up and staying hydrated: get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and eat nutrient-rich foods like chicken soup, leafy greens, and fruits that contain Vitamin C.
Learn the Signs and Listen to Your Body
Most people who end up suffering from the most severe flu symptoms didn’t realize they had influenza until it’s too late. If you lead a busy life, you might ignore the signals that your body is telling you, shuttle your kids to school and trudge into work with a 102 degree fever. When we do this, we’re not only doing more harm by ignoring the symptoms, we run the risk of spreading the flu to everyone we encounter. Soon, the whole office is down with the flu, your child has carried your sickness into their classroom, and your spouse is laid up in bed right next to you with a high fever. When you catch the flu, the best thing to do is to call into work, have other family members or neighbors take your kids to school, and focus on getting well.
To prevent suffering the worst flu symptoms and spreading the sickness around, it’s important to train yourself to spot the flu early and head to the doctor immediately for treatment. The quicker you can take care of yourself, the quicker you’ll be through your illness and back on your feet with no lasting issues.
People who have flu feel some or all of these symptoms:
- fever or feeling feverish/chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
Obtain medical care immediately if you or your family member experiences the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Persistent dizziness or confusion
- Not urinating
- Severe muscle pain
- Severe weakness or unsteadiness
- Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions
It’s important to note that not everyone who suffers from the flu will have a fever. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from the flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from the influenza virus itself or from a co-infection of the flu virus and bacteria. Inflammation in different parts of the body can lead to potentially life-threatening complications.
Cold Symptoms versus Flu Symptoms
While the flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses and share common symptoms, they are caused by different viruses. Due to the similarity of their symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the cold and the flu based on symptoms alone. Cold symptoms are generally milder than flu symptoms, and the common cold doesn’t usually lead to further complications. The major difference between cold and flu symptoms is that the flu tends to come on fast and strong, whereas a common cold appears gradually.
With a cold, all symptoms are more mild across the board. Cold sufferers rarely experience any fever or chills, and they may have very slight aches as opposed to those found with influenza. When you have the flu, you can be doing okay when you go to bed Tuesday night and wake up Wednesday morning with chills, aches, stuffy nose, and a fever.
While influenza is a dangerous virus, we can avoid its worst side effects by taking action early. If you haven’t had the flu yet, and you haven’t had a flu shot, get one as soon as you can. If you aren’t sure whether you have a cold or the flu, listen to what your body is telling you, visit your doctor, and get some rest.