The 2017-18 flu season is in full swing, and flu activity is currently widespread in most of the United States. Here are a few facts to keep in mind as you aim to stay healthy:

  • The “stomach flu” and influenza are not the same thing. The flu is a lung disease that also can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but those symptoms are more common in children. What we refer to as stomach flu is an intestinal disease that is caused by bacteria or viruses other than influenza virus.
  • Flu vaccines cannot give you the flu.
  • Influenza is caused by a particular virus (A, B, or C), rendering antibiotics ineffective. It is spread when infected droplets enter your nose or mouth—that can happen when you breathe (especially when someone who is sick sneezes or coughs around you), when you kiss someone who is sick, or when you touch something with the virus and proceed to touch your face/mouth. Wearing a facemask helps prevent the spread of these germs.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a flu vaccine is the most effective way of protecting against the flu. This is especially important for those suffering from chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and kidney and liver disease, to name a few, because the flu can make these conditions worse.
  • The following groups are considered by the CDC to be at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
    • Children younger than 5 but especially younger than the age of 2.
    • Adults 65 and older
    • Pregnant women
    • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • The dosage of the flu shot for those 65 and older contains 4 times the antigen as the regular flu shot, creating a stronger immune response. This high-dose vaccine has been available for use in the U.S. since 2009. New for 2016-17 was the adjuvant flu vaccine (modifies the immune response to give a higher amount of antibodies so less of a foreign material needs to be injected)
  • Antiviral medications such as Tamiflu are only effective if used within the first 2 days of onset and are only available with a prescription.
  • If you begin experiencing shortness of breath while fighting the flu, see your doctor right away as it may be a sign of pneumonia. This is especially important for those suffering from chronic lung diseases.
  • Keep in mind that the cold weather masks provided by Breathe PA only warm the air you breathe. They are not a filter from allergens, smoke, molds or infectious particles.