The Flu and You: Symptoms and Care

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The flu and you. If you got your flu shot, chances are you will still get sick this year. Even though manufacturers got the vaccine cocktail right — choosing the right strains — for unknown reasons it is not generating the powerful immune response expected. And the flu is striking earlier than expected.

A little bit of virus is packed in every inoculation – various strains, injected to trigger a major immune response, essentially teaching the body how to fight the latest flu.

Dr. Allison Bartlett, University of Chicago Medical Center, pediatric infectious disease specialist: “The flu shot every year has three different types of flu. This year, the three strains selected are a great match. There’s a little concern the vaccine is just not quite as effective as in previous years.”

So symptoms are striking with a vengeance.

Dr. Allison Bartlett: “It’s not your common cold.”

It starts with fever, chills, muscle aches, headache. If you get help right away, there is another weapon – an anti-viral medication. Given in the first 48 hours  of flu onset, the drugs will shorten the duration and severity of the flu.”

Dr. Bartlett: “That does not require an ER visit.  Seeing your primary provider or, oftentimes when flu activity is high, providers will prescribe over the phone.”

If you put off calling the doctor, simply put yourself to bed. Rest and fluids are the only fix.

Dr. Bartlett: “Rest up, fluids. Treat the symptoms if you are having fever. Stay out of the public eye and work until 24 hours after the fever is gone.”

You don’t want to infect others since some people are at greater risks for complications from the flu – young and old – those with asthma and other immune disorders and anyone with heart problems.

Dr. Bartlett: “Because there are more cases, we are seeing people being hospitalized and in the intensive care unit, but the flu itself doesn’t appear to be more severe.”

The flu will last for about five days then go away. If the fever comes back, that could be a sign of a secondary illness and the need for a new medication.

Dr. Bartlett: “Antibiotics don’t have any effect on the flu. They can have a role with pneumonia. Children can get an ear infection after the flu and in that case antibiotics are appropriate.”

Since the vaccine does offer some protection, doctors advise you to get the shot but it will take two weeks to provide any immunity.

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