For many people, coming down with the flu can mean about two weeks of illness, without the need for advanced medical care.
But for others, the onset of flu can mean hospitalization when complications become severe. Those complications may include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections. And those with already chronic conditions may find that the onset of flu makes other health issues worse. For example, people with asthma who have the flu may have asthma attacks, and those with congestive heart failure may find the symptoms getting worse.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) provides additional information for specific high-risk groups, including: Adults 65 years and older; pregnant women; young children; those with asthma; those who have heart disease or have had a stroke; people with diabetes or cancer; children with neurologic conditions and those with HIV/AIDS.
As the season begins, it’s important to remind yourself that flu is very different from a cold. With flu, the symptoms come on suddenly, and may include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
CDC officials, however, indicate that not everyone who has the flu will have a fever and that some people – more likely children – will also vomit and have diarrhea.
Flu viruses are active all year but are more common in the fall and winter. Most health experts recommend that people be vaccinated before the end of October. The CDC estimates that for the coming flu season, a projected 162 million to 169 million doses of the flu vaccine will be available in the U.S.
It’s also important to understand the difference between a “common” cold and the flu. With a cold, it’s rare or uncommon to have aches and chills. With the flu, those symptoms are more pronounced. With a cold, it’s common to sneeze, have a stuffy nose and have a sore throat. Those symptoms may be found sometimes in a person with the flu. A headache may be rare with a cold, but it’s common with flu.
It can typically take a few days, and usually less than two weeks, to recover from the flu. There may be complications which would prolong recovery, including sinus and ear infections.
Flu shots are covered by most health insurance plans, Medicare Part B, Medi-Cal and the Vaccines For Children Program (VFC). Santa Barbara County Public Health Department often offers free flu vaccine clinics and alerts the public on its website, at www.countyofsb.org/phd. Most pharmacies have the vaccine as well.
The 2018-19 flu season started September 30, 2018 and ended May 18, 2019. During the season, upper respiratory illness “clusters” were reported in two school/daycare settings and in four-county skilled nursing or long-term care facilities. One patient younger than 65 in the county was admitted to an intensive care unit. Also during last season, there were four known flu-related deaths in the county, including two people older than 65 and two older than 18, but with underlying conditions.
Be Prepared for Flu Season
At Lompoc Health’s Flu Shot Clinics, you’ll receive the quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against four strains of the flu: influenza A H3N2 virus, influenza A H1N1 and two strains of influenza B. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone older than 6 months, to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.