Everything you need to know about the flu.

Time saver 3 min read

Flu season is quickly approaching, but do you know what it is—and what it isn’t? Do you know how to help prevent flu and where to go if you do get sick? Don’t worry—that’s why we’re here. Consider this your 101 on the flu.

First, we experience flu epidemics each year during what’s more casually known as “flu season.” Flu season usually runs from about October to March, typically peaking in January or February. Some flu seasons may be milder than others.

Unfortunately, last year the flu hit hard and stuck around for a while. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listed it as a “high severity” season for each age group – the first time each age group was classified as “high” in the same season since the tracking began in 2003-2004.

If you’ve been hit with the flu, you know you don’t want to do that ever again. So here’s what you need to know about the flu this year.

The flu shot: Still our best defense

The flu vaccine is still our best chance at avoiding the flu each season. And scientific studies tell us that even if the flu shot does not match the exact strain circulating, it will still offer protection and decrease the severity of your symptoms.

The vaccine takes about two weeks to develop full immunity or protection in your body, so make it your goal is to get the shot by the end of October. But if you miss that deadline, it’s still okay to go in for a flu shot. The flu can stick around until May.

Not all flu is the same

If you’ve got symptoms that have you throwing up or nauseated, it may be the stomach flu, or what the pros call “gastroenteritis.” Like the seasonal flu, it’s often caused by a virus. But, this type of stomach bug is NOT the seasonal flu.

Seasonal flu has a set of significant symptoms that usually come on suddenly including:

  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever over 100 degrees
  • Congestion
  • Dry cough

You can also sometimes have a little nausea, but nothing as intense as the stomach flu. With the seasonal flu, aches and fatigue make it hard to even get out of bed.

Amy's quick tip

Wondering if it’s the flu? Symptoms like body aches and a high fever can come on with a bang. You’ll feel like you got hit by a bus.

– Amy Olsen, CNP for virtuwell

When to be on high alert

It’s good to stay aware of when and where the flu is spreading. If symptoms hit, you want to get a diagnosis ASAP, so you can take care of yourself and keep others around you from getting the flu.

A quick option that can save time and keep you out of waiting rooms may be online care. It’s a fast way to have your symptoms evaluated, get advice on how to speed up your recovery, and learn exactly what to expect.

Especially if you’re in a high risk group, knowing what steps to take can be important for both your comfort and safety. Anti-viral medications like Tamiflu® are an option to shorten and reduce flu symptoms, but work best when prescribed in the first few days of seeing symptoms. High-risk groups include:

  • kids younger than 5
  • adults older than 65
  • pregnant women
  • anyone with any chronic medical condition, including asthma, lung disorders, kidney problems, metabolic issues, and those with decreased immune function

Even if you’re not in a high-risk group you can help stop the spread of the flu with a flu shot. And don't forget hand-washing. It’s the simplest step to take toward fighting the flu.

A trusted source for understanding flu vaccine facts and tracking flu outbreaks and trends is the CDC. If you’re experiencing signs of the flu, learn more about treatment at virtuwell.

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