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What you need to know about flu season

What you need to know about flu season
What you need to know about flu season

This time of year, one of the most major medical concerns is contracting the flu. This illness, which can last up to two weeks, brings nasty respiratory symptoms and generally makes you feel awful. The influenza virus, commonly known as the flu, is also highly contagious. It’s possible for flu patients to spread the disease to others up to seven days after first experiencing symptoms.

This year in North Texas, the flu season is predicted to last until April, and thousands of people have been flooding area clinics for treatment of flu symptoms. Simply put, the flu is a nasty illness, but it is preventable. This list contains what you need to know about seasonal flu to protect yourself and your family.

The flu is a serious illness.

Unlike a cold, which can bring similar symptoms, the flu is a serious respiratory illness. The Centers for Disease Control estimate more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with flu complications each year. If you find that you or someone in your family is suffering flu-like symptoms, including fever or persistent sore throat, head to the clinic for a test to determine whether you’ve been infected.

Everyone needs a flu vaccine.

The flu is one of the deadliest preventable diseases, and a yearly flu shot will protect most people from contracting it. Everyone over the age of six months old should get a flu shot, especially people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems. Asthma sufferers and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to flu-related complications. It’s best to get a flu shot to protect both yourself and the people in your life from this potentially deadly condition.

There may be a shortage of flu medication in January.

Because this year’s flu season started early and strong, there could be a shortage of the medication prescribed to people who have been diagnosed with the flu. The drug, Tamiflu, helps lessen symptoms. The manufacturer of Tamiflu suggests some dosages of the drug may be unavailable through mid-January, which makes the flu shot an even smarter choice.

The flu vaccine takes time to be effective.

Like many vaccines, the flu shot takes time for the body to become fully immunized against the influenza virus. A flu shot takes up to two weeks to take full effect, so it’s best to get vaccinated as soon as possible. If you got the flu shot early in the year, you can be confident that it will last until the start of the next flu season.

The flu vaccine may have some side effects.

If you feel pain at the injection site, feverish or nauseated after getting your flu shot, you’re likely experiencing mild side effects of the vaccine. More serious side effects, such as difficulty breathing or uncontrollable fever, are rare, but possible. It’s important to speak with your doctor about whether a flu shot is right for your body. In most cases, though, the benefits of flu prevention outweigh a few mild side effects.

Even if you’ve never been immunized against the flu, there’s no better time to start. The influenza virus is treatable, but it’s better to avoid the illness altogether by protecting yourself with a vaccine. Most health insurance policies cover flu shots, and many drugstores offer low-cost immunization services for the uninsured.