By: Keri Brophy-Martinez, ACC Medical Lab Technology Department Chair
It is that time of year again…flu season. Flu season officially begins October 1 and can potentially run until late April or early May. Flu incidence spikes during these months as many people tend to stay indoors more frequently and have close contact with family and friends over the holiday season.
Predictions for the 2019-2020 flu season indicate it could be one of the worst in recent years, so it is best to get yourself vaccinated.
Although some patients who receive the vaccination may experience side effects, these tend to be milder than the flu itself. Another added benefit of the flu vaccine is providing herd immunity – meaning protecting those in the community who may not be able to take the vaccination, such as the elderly or infants.
In addition to the flu vaccination, another important way to protect yourself and your loved ones are handwashing. Frequent handwashing is the number one prevention strategy for the flu and many other illnesses that tend to strike in the fall and winter months.
Flu vs Common Cold vs Allergies
The flu is often mistaken for the common cold, as both are caused by viruses. However, with the common cold, patients do not run a fever or experience body aches. The most common symptoms with a cold are runny or stuffy nose and sneezing. Unlike the flu, patients usually do not have a fever. To treat the common cold, rest and hydration are key.
Allergies can also be mistaken for the flu. Allergy symptoms include sneezing, tiredness, and runny or stuffy nose. In some cases, patients may have a sore throat or cough. Allergies are caused by triggers in the environment, whether indoor or outdoor, that activate the body’s immune system to produce antibodies. Symptoms will continue as long as the trigger is present. The best prevention for allergies is to avoid common triggers such as pet dander, mold, dusk, or environmental pollens.
If you think you may have the flu, ask yourself: Did the symptoms present abruptly? Do I have a fever or chills? Do I have a headache or other body aches? Do I feel fatigued or tired? If the answer is yes, make an appointment with your medical provider. Depending on the initial point of the symptoms, it may be possible to receive an antiviral drug to reduce the effects of the flu.