In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense with the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose and a sore throat. Your health care provider can give you a test within the first few days of your illness to tell you if you have the flu or something else.
Children, pregnant women, the elderly and immune-compromised are at highest risk for severe, even life-threatening reactions. You’ve probably seen the numbers in the news. To date, the CDC has received reports of 18 deaths of children this season. Influenza activity continues to spread in the U.S. and most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like illness (ILI), according to CDC’s latest FluView report. The CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination for people who have not yet been vaccinated this season and antiviral treatment as early as possible for people who get sick and are at high risk of flu complications.
The influenza vaccine is safe at any time during pregnancy. Almost all women who are or will be pregnant during flu season can get the shot. Getting the flu shot can help protect you from getting influenza and spreading it to others. Getting a flu shot during pregnancy is good for your baby, too. Babies born to women who get the vaccine during pregnancy are less likely to get sick with influenza. As newborns, they are not able to get the vaccine until the age of six months, all the more reason to have those around them vaccinated.
“While influenza vaccination offers the best protection we have against influenza, it’s still possible that some people may become ill despite being vaccinated,” says Dr. Joe Bresee of the CDC. “Health care providers and the public should remember that influenza antiviral medications are a second line of defense against influenza.”
Antiviral treatment (sold commercially as “Tamiflu®” and “Relenza®”) started as early as possible after becoming ill, is recommended for any patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or ill and at high risk of serious influenza-related complications. Treatment should begin as soon as influenza is suspected, regardless of vaccination status or rapid test results and should not be delayed for confirmatory testing.
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough