Seasonal Influenza | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Seasonal Influenza

For most, seasonal influenza is a nuisance of mild symptoms that keep you in bed for a few days. But the flu also kills tens of thousands of Americans each season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Those most at risk of developing a serious case of the flu are anyone 65 or older and individuals with these conditions: asthma; a history of heart disease and stroke; diabetes; or chronic kidney disease. Children under age 2 are also at risk of getting severely ill.

Signs that should trigger emergency care for flu or COVID-19 include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest and bluish color to light skin. Those with dark skin may notice the bluish color more readily in the lips or gums, or around the eyes and nails.

Flu Symptoms

Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly — typically within one to four days of infection. Some or all of these symptoms are typical signs of flu:

  • Chills, fever — though not everyone will have a fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (feeling tired)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

The flu viruses circulate year-round, but typically start making people sick in the United States in October, and peak from December to February.

How to Tell the Difference Between Flu and COVID-19?

Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because many of the symptoms are similar, it may be difficult to tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 based on symptoms alone.

Both the flu and COVID-19 can be spread from person to person and are spread mainly by droplets when those who have the virus cough, sneeze or talk. In addition, both viruses may be possible to spread from contact with an infected person or by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then their own mouth, nose or possibly eyes.

Flu Prevention

The flu shot isn’t 100% effective, but it’s the best prevention available. The flu viruses that each season’s vaccine will target are decided in advance to allow time for manufacturing and shipping. Often, the viruses will mutate over time and make the shot about 40% to 60% effective most seasons.

Even if you get sick, the flu shot can lessen the severity of your symptoms. It takes about two weeks for your body to build up the antibodies it will use to fight an infection. The sooner in the season you get the flu shot, the better, but it still could help if you get vaccinated later in the season.

Other steps to take include staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent hand-washing. Being aware of the flu’s spread in Louisville and Southern Indiana can help you make more informed decisions. Norton Healthcare tracks the number of flu cases seen by its providers and has created a map to show flu activity in the area.

Flu Treatment

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs may be an option, especially if you are at high risk of serious complications. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and aren’t effective against viral infections like the flu. Some people may develop a bacterial infection as a result of having the flu.

For most, the flu is a mild illness and doesn’t require medical care — stay home for at least 24 hours after any fever breaks and avoid contact with others except to get medical care or other necessities.

The CDC recommends that anyone 18 or younger should not take aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) to relieve flu symptoms or any products that contain aspirin. This could cause a rare and very serious complication — Reye’s syndrome.

Seasonal influenza

Flu Treatment When You Need It

Norton Healthcare has convenient options for flu symptom treatment in kids and adults, including 24/7 access to a provider in person or online.

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