If you’re one of the many people who for various reasons didn’t get a flu shot last fall, go ahead and roll up a sleeve. It’s not too late.
Flu season, which is in full swing, could last until sometime in May. After you get a flu shot, it takes about two weeks to build immunity.
How well the flu shot will protect you from infection varies from year to year, however, health authorities say it’s worth it to get vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated and still get the flu, your symptoms will not be as severe.
While getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent influenza infection, you can seek help from your health provider if you get the flu. Antiviral drugs, available only by prescription, can lessen your symptoms and get you back to feeling normal one to two days sooner. They work best if you take them within 48 hours of when your symptoms begin. Antiviral treatment may also help prevent serious flu complications, such as pneumonia.
Consulting your doctor is the best way to know if you have the flu. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, feeling tired, vomiting and diarrhea. Some people who get the flu will not have a fever.
Even healthy adults and children can get very sick from flu. Thousands of people die every year from flu-related complications.
Federal health authorities recommend taking a child to the emergency room if they have trouble breathing, fast breathing, bluish or gray skin color. Other emergency warning signs are not drinking enough fluids, severe vomiting, not waking up or interacting, fever with rash or developing a fever and worse cough after flu symptoms improve.
The good news is that most people who get the flu will have mild illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They won’t develop complications or need antiviral drugs.
Certain groups of people should seek antiviral treatment as soon as possible. People who become very sick or are considered high-risk for serious flu complications should consult their health provider immediately.
Those who are at high-risk include:
- People who are 65 and older.
- Children younger than 5, especially those under the age of 2.
- Anyone with a medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma.
- Pregnant women.
- People who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
You should also visit your doctor for antiviral treatment if you have any of the following medical conditions: asthma, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, chronic lung disease, cancer, heart disease, blood, kidney or liver disorders, diabetes, metabolic disorders, a weakened immune system or a body mass index over 40.
Remember, if you get sick with flu, you’re contagious for about a week, possibly longer if your symptoms continue. Stay home and rest unless you need to seek medical care. You can also reach a health provider within minutes from your phone, tablet or computer at Bon Secours 24/7.