Flu Q&A: Symptoms and treatment

flu shot
Photo courtesy CDC/Judy Schmidt

Not sure if that cough you’re battling is the flu or just your average cold? Here are a few symptoms that might indicate you’re fighting the flu.

Symptoms of the flu can include the sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches, as well as a cough or sore throat. These symptoms are often similar to cold symptoms, but come on more swiftly and are more pronounced.

Although most people will usually recover from flu without complications, the virus poses a more serious risk for individuals younger than age two, those over 50, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions.

Should you get a flu shot?

  • The State Health Department recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive a flu vaccination.
  • Children under six months cannot get a flu vaccination. Since the flu virus can be transmitted through coughing or sneezing, family members and people who regularly come in contact with young children or individuals at high risk for the disease get vaccinated against influenza.
  • Individuals at high risk for the flu include people who have a chronic medical condition, in addition to the very young and the very old. Also, all health care workers should be vaccinated against influenza and other communicable disease to protect their health and the health of their patients.
  • Most health insurance plans cover flu vaccines. If you don’t have health insurance, don’t panic. Individuals and families without health insurance should check with their county health department to determine if local clinics will be held to provide free vaccinations. Pharmacists are also able to give flu shots and pharmacies may be an easy and convenient place to receive a flu vaccination.

What to do if you’ve been exposed.

  • If you think you have been exposed to someone infected with the flu or a person experiencing flu symptoms, consult with your health care provider immediately to determine whether prescription antiviral drugs may be helpful.
  • Treatment with prescription antiviral medications can sometimes lessen the effects of influenza, if the treatment is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against influenza.
  • Although getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent getting influenza, you can also reduce your risk by washing your hands regularly and disinfecting surfaces, such as desktops and telephones, that are touched frequently.
  • Eating healthy foods, getting enough rest and exercising regularly can also help protect against influenza and the common cold.
  • If you do experience symptoms or become ill, it is important to limit your opportunity to expose other people by staying home while ill and practicing good cough etiquette, such as coughing into your elbow instead of your hands.



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