Both the common cold and influenza (the flu) are respiratory illnesses, but flu symptoms are more severe than the common cold and can lead to complications such as pneumonia or bacterial infections.
To protect yourself and others, it’s important to schedule a flu shot with your Primary Care Provider.
Flu Vaccine Update: If you have kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends the nasal spray vaccine after studies showed poor effectiveness. Therefore, our clinicians only offer the shot vaccine.
Get the FACTS
While many cold symptoms can mimic the flu, there are five FACTS that generally point to influenza:
- Sudden symptoms
Fever, headache, severe body aches and chills are red flags for the flu. Sneezing, runny or stuffy nose and sore throat are more likely tied to a common cold.
Flu symptoms often appear suddenly, within three to six hours, whereas cold symptoms might appear more gradually. Both illnesses may make you feel tired, but with the flu this symptom is more extreme.
Stop Flu in Its Tracks
If you suspect you have the flu, it’s a good idea to see your doctor right away so he can test for the influenza virus and prescribe an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu. If taken within 12 to 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms, antivirals can stop the flu from spreading throughout your body and shorten the duration of your misery.
“Just” a Cold
Cold symptoms can drag you down, but over-the-counter medications can help. Just be sure not to take medication for symptoms you don’t have.
Unlike antivirals, however, cold meds don’t attack the virus; they just relieve symptoms. The only cure for the common cold is time.
Common questions about flu vaccinations
How well does the flu vaccine project someone from the flu?
There are many different strains of influenza, so the vaccine—and its effectiveness—can vary from year to year. Each year a vaccine is developed to match the strains expected to be prevalent in the coming flu season. While it is impossible to predict the prevalent strains exactly, the vaccine is the best defense against the flu. Its effectiveness also depends on your typical health; the vaccine is effective, but it won’t make you invincible.
Is there a vaccination for children and a different vaccination for adults?
There are two different types of flu vaccines: trivalent, which protects against three strains of the flu, and quadrivalent, which protects against four. Ask your provider which vaccine is best for you.
Which is better, the shot vaccine or the spray vaccine?
The shot vaccine is more effective. As of 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends the nasal spray vaccine after studies showed poor effectiveness.
Can you get the flu shot if you are pregnant?
Yes! The elderly, those in poor general health and pregnant patients are at particular risk of influenza, making it an even higher priority to get vaccinated.
Where/when can I get a flu shot?
You can set up an appointment to receive a flu shot by calling your provider.
To learn more about influenza, vaccines and risk factors, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm or contact your provider.
Staying healthy during flu season
While the best way to stay healthy this flu season is to get vaccinated, here are some other things you can do to protect yourself:
1. Practice good hand hygiene. Encourage everyone in your family to practice regular hand-washing, especially after using the bathroom, before and after handling or eating food and after coming in from the outdoors. Hand-washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.
When soap and water aren’t available, gel sanitizers or wipes containing 60-90 percent ethyl alcohol or isopropanol are the next best thing. Keep these in your car, purse or desk. Using a dime-size amount of gel, rub your hands together, covering all surfaces of the skin and nails, until the gel is dry.
2. Take cover. Get into the habit of sneezing into your inner elbow. If you have a tissue, cover your nose and mouth with it when you sneeze or cough.
3. Don’t touch. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
4. Replace and wash items. Buy a new toothbrush after a cold or other illness. Wash your bedding at least once a week, especially pillow covers. Wash gloves, scarves and any other attire that covers your face or mouth. This is helpful in keeping germs away.
5. Stay hydrated. Dry nasal passages make it easier for the flu virus to breed, so its important to drink plenty of fluids. Water is a natural moisturizer for the inside of your body. Aim for eight cups of water a day. Swap out fizzy carbonated drinks for herbal tea. Increase your fluid intake if you are on a high-fiber or high-protein diet.
6. Keep it colorful. Eating lots of junk food, skipping meals and consuming lots of caffeine can increase your chances of becoming ill. Eating a well-balanced meal comprised of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can help keep you healthy. Need some food inspiration? Check out some of these healthy recipes: http://blog.affinityhealth.org/?s=recipes
7. Take time to relax. Managing stress and making time for relaxing activities is very important in maintaining good health. Meditation, exercise, napping, getting a massage or reading is a good way to reduce stress. Carving out “white space” in your calendar so you can fit these things into your life is the first step in claiming some “me” time.
8. Get some ZZZZs. According to the National Sleep Foundation adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. A lot of Americans do not get enough sleep. Lack of sleep wreaks havoc on your health and can make you more susceptible to illnesses. It can contribute to work errors, car crashes and industrial disasters. Sleep deprived individuals are also more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression, obesity, etc.
Hopefully, following these tips will help you stay healthy! If you do get sick, treat yourself kindly. It takes energy for your body to fight the organisms making you sick. Stay home to avoid spreading germs. Rest, proper nutrition and hydration will help. Stay well!