Be a Flu Fighter

As the season changes from summer to fall, preparations are made for big things ahead. No, not holiday tunes and yuletide decorations just yet. But it does mean that it’s time for Back to School with students starting classes, getting into new routines and reconnecting with friends again. However, it also signifies another season’s arrival…the dreaded Flu Season. 

Don’t let the flu throw a monkey wrench in any of your plans. No one wants to fall victim to the flu and many will do whatever it takes to avoid it. Here are some facts about the flu as you prepare yourself to defend against it.

The flu is a multi-faceted villain. Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, not to mention some of those ugly stomach issues. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines and are not available over-the-counter. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends rapid antiviral treatment for people who are very sick with flu or people with symptoms who are at high risk of serious flu complications. Remember, the flu IS contagious. While sick with the flu, limit your contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) You don’t want to be the one who spreads it around the office.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the most important step in preventing influenza infection. Often times, flu vaccinations are available in many locations to serve the public. The CDC offers a Flu Vaccine Finder to search locations near you, or you can check your local area for free or discounted flu shots if you choose to get vaccinated.

Flu vaccines protect against 3 or 4 different flu viruses. There is some data to suggest that even if someone gets sick after vaccination, their illness may be milder.

Who is considered High-Risk?

Vaccination of high-risk people is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include:

  • Young children (6 months to 18 years)
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease
  • People 65 years and older
  • People who are immunosuppressed (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
  • People who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities
  • Health care personnel
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza

Everyone can get the flu, but influenza poses a serious health hazard to the elderly. Each winter, in the United States alone, influenza typically takes the lives of 36,000 Americans, most of whom are older than 65. Pneumonia, which results from influenza, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

For people with high-risk factors, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health condition or is very sick from the flu. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.

Vaccination is also important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to them.

Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for infants should be vaccinated instead.

What if there is a vaccine shortage?

The following groups should be a priority for Flu Vaccination during a vaccine shortage:

  • Children aged 6 months through 4 years (59 months)
  • People aged 50 years and older
  • People with chronic pulmonary, including asthma, cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus)

Take everyday preventive actions

The CDC recommends the following tips to prevent spreading germs, flu virus, and some other viruses, like COVID-19:

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and hot water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread more easily this way.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
• Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

The Flu vs a Cold

What is the difference between the flu and a cold?

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on just symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more common and intense. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. Flu can have very serious associated complications. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.


Signs & Symptoms



Symptom Onset




Usual (lasts 3-4 days)



Usual (often severe)



Fairly Common








Stuffy Nose



Sore Throat



Chest Discomfort & Cough

Common (can be severe)

Mild to Moderate with Hacking Cough





Click here for the CDC's most up-to-date information, including symptoms, vaccine information, and prevention tips, about COVID-19.

The Bottom Line

  • People should receive influenza vaccinations between October and mid-November each year to prevent influenza and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia.
  • The elderly are at increased risk for influenza and its complications.
  • Flu shots do not cause the flu and they are affordable. Medicare covers flu shots for the elderly and free flu shots are available at many hospitals and public health clinics.

However you decide to tackle flu season, just be informed and educated about the dangers of the flu. With school starting and a cluster of holidays just around the corner, you don’t want to miss out on anything by being sick. PAM Health hopes you stay safe and healthy all year long.