Flu season is around the corner. Influenza viruses cause the flu, and infection is spread through respiratory routes. Here is what you need to know in preparation.
• Sudden onset (symptoms start and worsen over several hours)
• Persistent fever
• Muscle aches
• Fatigue, general malaise
• Nausea or vomiting
• Chills, shakes, and sweating
The flu is also contagious, with adults capable of spreading the virus up to 7 days following onset of symptoms, and children for up to 10 days.
It is common to confuse flu symptoms with cold symptoms. With the seasonal cold, symptoms generally progress slower, and are accompanied by:
• Stuffy nose
• Sore throat
• Milder cough that takes longer to develop
• Fatigue, weakness and muscle aches can occur but are generally milder
Don’t get the flu this year: Get Vaccinated!
If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, plan to get your annual flu shot at your healthcare provider or pharmacy. Pharmacies can provide this service in most states.
Studies show that the influenza vaccine is proven to decrease outbreaks, decrease severity and prevent spread of the virus. Some recent studies have even suggested a cardiovascular benefit from the flu shot.
The flu season peaks between January to March. However, last year the flu season did start early with cases reported in November and December. This left many institutes underprepared and overwhelmed, and lead to numerous hospitalizations and several deaths.
The best time to get vaccinated is between September and October.
This will give your body time to build up immunity to the virus in time for the peak of the flu season and will cover you if the season starts early. The vaccine will cover you for about 8 to 10 months, but your body takes around 2 to 4 weeks to start developing immunity. You’ll still be susceptible to infection during that time, so it’s important to get your shot early enough.
Who should get vaccinated?
Currently all patients above the age of 6 months are encouraged to receive the vaccination, unless you’ve had a severe reaction to a previous vaccine or if you developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome post-vaccination. If you are acutely ill (currently sick), you should wait for your condition to improve before getting the vaccine.
However, most pharmacies do not provide vaccinations to young children, who should be vaccinated under the guidance of a pediatrician.
If you are considered a high-risk patient then it is especially important to get vaccinated. Patients that are high risk are at an increase risk for having severe infections that may require hospitalization, and include: children (younger than 5), the elderly (older than 65), and people with certain conditions including pregnancy, immunosuppression, asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
What else do I need to know?
Check with your insurance company about billing for the vaccination. Some will only cover the service in clinics, pharmacies or specific locations. Most pharmacies that do give the vaccine can bill your insurance for it though. If you need to pay out of pocket, the flu vaccine can range from $30 – $40. Also check with your pharmacy or provider regarding availability, as supply levels can vary and may run out quickly.
Next week’s post will cover the different flu shots available this year and which option may be best for you.
The GoodRx Pharmacist