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?
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?
The high-dose vaccine is designed for those 65 and older.
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.
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?
Drink plenty of fluids, stay home, get lots of rest and avoid contact with other people. In most situations, flu symptoms should go away on their own within a week or two. Thinking about heading back to work? The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities.
If you do need a doctor, we’re here to help. The first step is to contact your primary care doctor. If your doctor isn’t available, Bronson has other services that can help you feel better, such as video visits, walk-in care and more. Check out our Need Care Now page or call (269) 341-7788.
Those at high risk for flu complications (see below) should contact their healthcare provider at the first signs of flu symptoms. Everyone, even those not at high risk, should contact their provider if flu symptoms worsen after five days.
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 who contract the flu should contact their healthcare provider at the first signs of flu symptoms. Everyone, even those not at high risk, should contact their provider if flu symptoms worsen after five days.
Do I need to go to the hospital emergency department if I get the flu?
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 complications appear you should go to the emergency room. Those signs include: trouble breathing, bluish skin color, unable to eat or drink, unresponsive, sudden dizziness, confusion, if flu-like symptoms improve but then return or a child has tears with no crying, significantly fewer wet diapers than normal or fever with 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.