Flu Frequently Asked Questions
What is the flu?
Influenza (commonly known as the flu), is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that spreads through the air from people coughing, sneezing or talking. You can also be infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face.
The most common symptoms of influenza are fever, cough, muscle aches, headache and sore throat. Some adults feel better in a week or two, while others, including small children, the elderly and the chronically ill, may have a harder time recovering.
When is flu season?
In the United States, flu season can start as early as October and extend into May and tends to peak in the winter months.
How can I prevent the flu?
The best way to prevent the flu is through a vaccination. You can receive a vaccine from your primary care provider or at another Bronson location.
Additionally, you can help protect yourself against the flu by washing your hands frequently and living a healthy lifestyle. Carry hand sanitizer with you in case you can’t wash your hands right away after being in a public area or around those who are showing signs of being sick. You may also want to use disinfecting wipes to wipe down surfaces or shopping carts when you’re out and about.
As a proactive measure, Bronson patients and non-patients can pre-enroll in BronsonConnect Video Visits, which allows you to talk with a provider online 24/7 using your smartphone, tablet or computer. Download the app through the App Store or Google Play, or sign up online. The cost is $59 or less, depending on insurance coverage.
Who should get a flu vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccination every year. The vaccination is especially important for those at high risk for flu complications including adults over the age of 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women, and people with chronic health problems.
Where can I get the flu vaccine?
You can receive a vaccine from your primary care provider or at a Bronson FastCare®, Bronson Outpatient Pharmacy or Bronson Urgent Care. Learn more.
When should I get the flu vaccine?
It’s best to get your flu vaccine before the flu season. However, getting the flu vaccine any time throughout the flu season is safer than not getting it at all.
Do I need a regular or high-dose flu vaccine?
If you are considered high risk, Bronson recommends you receive the high-dose vaccine. This includes people 65 years and older, people who are pregnant, and those with chronic health conditions, such as lung disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, heart disease, neurologic disease and more.
What’s the difference between the flu and a cold?
The flu and a cold are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract, but influenza is much worse. Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing are common with colds. Influenza causes a moderate to high fever for several days, including chills, fatigue and a dry, hacking cough.
How can I tell the difference between flu and COVID-19?
If you have flu-like or COVID-like symptoms, you should not try to diagnose yourself. There are many similarities shared between influenza (flu) and COVID-19. Symptoms vary from person to person and without laboratory testing to definitively identify the virus, they may be mistaken for one another. This is why it’s critical to get a vaccine to help prevent the flu.
Symptoms shared include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- No symptoms at all (asymptomatic)
Is the “stomach flu” the same as influenza?
No. Influenza is a respiratory infection and does not cause intestinal symptoms.
What should I do if I get the flu?
If you start experiencing flu-like symptoms (including fever, chills, cough or shortness of breath), you should stay home and drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest, avoid contact with other people and take one of the following next steps:
- Call a Bronson Care Advisor at (269) 341-7788
- Do a BronsonConnect Video Visit
- Contact your primary care provider via telephone or through Bronson MyChart
Because flu and COVID-19 symptoms are so similar, it is important you self-isolate for at least 14 days, outside from seeking medical care. If you live with others, even pets, you should try to find an area of the home, away from others, where you can quarantine.
Who is at greatest risk for flu complications?
Those at high risk for flu complications include adults over the age of 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women, and people with chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and HIV. High-risk patients should contact their healthcare provider at the first signs of flu symptoms.
Do I need to go to the hospital emergency department if I get the flu?
Due to COVID-19, we are taking extra precautions when it comes to the emergency department. It’s important to remember that the hospital is intended for those who are very sick. You should not go to the hospital if you are only mildly ill.
If warning signs of flu complications appear, you should call 911. Those signs include: trouble breathing, bluish skin color, unable to eat or drink, unresponsive, sudden dizziness, confusion, symptoms improve but then return. Additional warning sign in children include: no tears when crying, significantly fewer wet diapers than normal, or fever with a rash.
What about antiviral drugs?
Antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) are treatment options for the flu. They are medicines that must be prescribed to you by your doctor and cannot be purchased over-the-counter. Antiviral drugs are not a substitute for the flu vaccine.
If you get the flu, antiviral drugs may be a treatment option. The treatment should be started within 48 hours of becoming sick with flu symptoms and can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by about one day. Side effects of antiviral drugs for flu include nausea and vomiting. You should consult with your doctor about possible treatment options.