this is a sponsored post by the lovely people at minute clinic. as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
i've already had my one sweet girl out for the count this weekend. she was all set to go away to camp for the weekend and came home night one with a 102 degree temperature. lots of rest and some good medication and she was good to go by monday but i know that isn't always the case and we are not always so fortunate. she only had a bad cold this weekend and we were thankful there were no flu symptoms to make things worse.
pets make everyone feel better.
that got me thinking. what is the difference between the cold and the flu and how can we best prevent a flu outbreak in our own homes. here are some tips.
what is the flu?
the flu is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. it can develop very quickly and with the flu, you almost always have a fever. other common symptoms include headache, sore throat, dry cough, stuffy or runny nose and muscle aches. sounds awesome, doesn't it?
certain people are at a greater rise for complications with the flu. seniors, pregnant women, young children and those with health complications like asthma or diabetes are at a high risk for the flu. if you think you might have the flu, check with your doctor or a minute clinic practitioner to have a flu test done.
outbreaks of the flu can start as early as october and usually peak around january. the flu can spread before someone even realizes they are sick since most healthy adults can infect others one day before and up to five-seven days after becoming sick. for children and those with weakened immune systems, that period can be even longer.
the flu vaccine
one key way to prevent the flu is with a flu vaccine. some of my kids got vaccinated at their yearly check up with their pediatrician and others had their flu shot at our local cvs minute clinic. most insurance covers the flu shot completely and ours were free at both locations. the bonus of getting a flu shot at minute clinic is that we got a 20% off shopping pass when we got our flu shot there (disclaimer: not available in MA, RI, PA and NY).
there is some key information to know about the flu shot.
- you need to get a flu vaccine every year. a new vaccine is developed yearly to fight the strains that are most likely to be prevalent for the season.
- the cold weather has little to do with when flu season starts. outbreaks can happen as early as september and october. it takes two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies from the shot to provide protection. it's never too early to get the vaccine but you want to make sure you have it two weeks before flu breaks out.
- the vaccine is made from a dead virus so it cannot give you the flu. if you get flu-like symptoms after getting the flu shot, it is likely you were exposed to the flu after getting the vaccine but before the vaccine took effect.
- the only real side effect of the flu vaccine might be soreness or redness at the injection site.
cold vs. flu
to first determine if you have a cold or the flu, check the symptoms:
cold:fevers are rare
flu: fevers are usually present
flu: fairly common
flu: moderate to severe
symptom: onset of symptoms
cold: appear gradually
flu: can appear within 3-6 hours
symptom: coughingcold: common
symptom: sneezingcold: common
symptom: stuffy nose
symptom: runny nose
symptom: sore throat
symptom: general aches/pains
flu: common, often severe
symptom: chest discomfort
cold: mild to moderate
flu: often severe
what can we do to prevent the flu?
vaccination is the first line of defense from the flu. again, we love the cvs minute clinic because it is close, convenient, takes our insurance and i can get in the same day. it's also great as it is connected to an in store pharmacy so any medication i need can be purchased quickly and painlessly. with five kids, you know that is a plus in my book! just sign in at the kiosk and wait for the nurse practitioner to see you. easy and painless!
beyond the vaccine, making sure you and your family are eating right, exercising regularly, washing your hands and getting enough sleep each night can also help. the cdc recommends the following:
- wash your hands with soap and water often, especially after you cough or sneeze. scrub your wet, soapy hands for at least 20 seconds.
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze and discard of the tissue in the trash. sneeze into your sleeve if a tissue is not available.
- avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as germs can spread easily that way.
- avoid contact with those who are sick. flu is believed to be mainly spread from person-to-person contact (coughing and sneezing doesn't help).
- if you are sick, stay home from work or school to keep others from getting infected.
- disinfect surfaces: use a product that kills household germs and be sure to thoroughly wipe down handles, faucets, and all surfaces you touch often. don't forget your workspace and car. if you use public transportation, be sure to wash your hands as soon as you get to your destination.
- if you think you might be sick, don't wait and see. get help right away. early flu treatment (within the first 72 hours of exposure to the virus) has been proven to reduce the length and severity of the illness. if you think you might have the flu or have been exposed to someone with the flu, see a health care professional right away.