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Friday, October 9, 2015

Dedicated Post: Who Has Time for the Flu? What's the Flu and Where can you get Vaccinated?

Every fall, the kids and I get our flu shots (hubby gets his at work). We've been fortunate not to have caught the flu, though I have memories from growing up of days laid up in bed feeling horrible. A (hopefully) preventative shot is totally worth avoiding that.

And in case you were wondering, this post is brought to you by MinuteClinic.
I got a flu shot but this isn't me. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

What IS the flu? Sometimes it gets confusing to know the difference between the the flu and a cold (see below for some common symptoms of both). The flu is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. It can develop very quickly and often comes with a fever, and possibly headache, sore throat, dry cough, stuffy or runny nose and muscle aches.

How serious is it? Usually the flu is not life-threatening, but rather quite unpleasant and you'll be laid up for days to a week. Some people, though, are at greater risk for complications, including pregnant women, young kids and seniors, plus those with asthma or diabetes.

When is “flu season?” Okay, so there's no specific dates, and each year the "season" changes, depending on the flu strain. But generally it starts in October, peaking in January. We usually get our vaccinations in October, when we start seeing signs that they're available.

Flu shots: Turns out there are two kinds of flu shots, plus the snortable Flu Mist (my kids prefer this needle-less option). We got shots this year at CVS' MinuteClinic, and they offer two kinds:

• Regular seasonal flu shot: This year they have the Trivalent and Quadrivalent shots. Trivalent Vaccine (TIV) contains two A strains and one B strain of the influenza virus, the standard flu vaccine since the late 1970s. The Quadrivalent Vaccine (QIV) protects against an additional B strain. This vaccine was created based on research from the past 12 influenza seasons, offering an additional layer of protection against the flu.
• High dose vaccination: This is for seniors 65+, and it provides an elevated antigen level to create a stronger immune response.

Vaccinations change every year because of the flu strain, so unfortunately your shot is only good for one year.

Where to get flu shots: You can get shots in a variety of places, including your health care provider's office, a pharmacy or walk-in clinic (MinuteClinic vaccinates patients 18 months and older in most states including California), and some county health systems. Most insurance plans are accepted at MinuteClinic (of course they accept cash too), and you'll get a 20% off CVS/pharmacy shopping pass after your flu shot in California. Bonus!

Can you get sick from the flu shot? NopeThe vaccine is made from  inactivated (dead) virus, so you can't get the flu from it (though your arm may be sore after the shot). If you have flu-like symptoms after getting your flu shot, you probably were exposed to the flu after vaccination but before it took effect, which can be up to two weeks.

Preventing the flu: whether or not you get a shot, there are other things you can do to help keep sickness to a minimum. They're common sense, like washing your hands, getting enough sleep, eating well, and covering your mouth when sneezing (and avoiding others sneezing on you!).

Should you see a doctor? It's definitely advisable to see a doctor if you don't know whether you have the flu or a cold. If you catch it within 72 hours, there are medications that will reduce the length and severity of the flu. You can go to your own doctor, or a place like MinuteClinic.

Here's a handy check sheet to see if you have the cold or the flu:

Symptom: Fever 
Cold: rare
Flu: usually present

Symptom: Chills 
Cold: uncommon
Flu: fairly common

Symptom: Tiredness 
Cold: mild
Flu: moderate to severe

Symptom: Onset of symptoms 
Cold: appear gradually
Flu: can appear within 3-6 hours

Symptom: Coughing 
Cold: common
Flu: common

Symptom: Sneezing 
Cold: common
Flu: uncommon

Symptom: Stuffy nose 
Cold: common
Flu: uncommon

Symptom: Runny nose
Cold: sometimes
Flu: common

Symptom: Sore throat 
Cold: common
Flu: uncommon

Symptom: General aches/pains 
Cold: slight
Flu: common, often severe

Symptom: Chest discomfort 
Cold: mild to moderate
Flu: often severe

Symptom: Headache 
Cold: mild
Flu: common

Next week there's a Twitter chat with the CDC. It's on Thursday, October 15 from 10-11 Pacific time. They're giving out prizes at the end to participants!

Disclosure: I'm not a doctor! And this post is sponsored by MinuteClinic. But I told you that already.

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