The 2019-2020 flu season is particularly nasty this year, with as many as 25 U.S. states reporting increased flu activity this season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39,000 U.S. men, women, and children have been hospitalized for flu-related complications and another 2,100 have died from the virus so far — and the flu season is not over yet.
Colds Vs. The Flu: Know The Difference
Is it a cold or the flu? Answering that question may not be as straightforward as you think. Both are viruses and both cause respiratory distress. A person with a cold will cough and sneeze. A runny nose, a sore throat, congestion, and chest discomfort are also pretty common.
Someone with the flu, on the other hand, may cough. A runny nose and sneezing are possible, but much less likely with the flu. The flu typically comes along with other symptoms, like fever, chills, body aches, and headaches. Flu symptoms are more persistent and more severe. Stomach bugs and ailments, like norovirus, may also be mistaken for the flu. Norovirus shares fatigue and body aches with flu, but presents with more stomach-related symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Flu symptoms can be severe and complications from the virus can even necessitate hospitalization. Talk to your doctor or visit urgent care centers near you if symptoms persist and you are still uncertain whether you are suffering from a common cold or the flu. Acute sinusitis, acute pharyngitis, upper respiratory infections, fever, and coughs are the most diagnosed illnesses at urgent care centers. This means that medical professionals will be very familiar with flu and cold symptoms and able to easily diagnose and help you.
Is The Flu Contagious?
Not only is the flu contagious, medical professionals reveal that it is one of the most contagious viruses out there. The flu can spread from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Flu germs are contagious immediately and sometimes a person with the flu may be able to spread it to another person 24 to 48 hours before they even notice any symptoms of the virus in themselves. The flu virus can easily remain on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours and it even lingers on used tissues for as long as 15 minutes! Anyone coming into contact with these live germs is at risk of getting the flu.
Preventing The Flu
If possible, it is always best to avoid getting the flu in the first place and there are several ways to do it. Clean your hands well and often, using soap and water whenever possible. Remember most hand sanitizers are anti-bacterial, which does not protect you from viruses. If you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose. Medical professionals recommend staying home from work if you are sick. Prevent the transmission of germs and the flu at work by regularly cleaning your mouse, keyboard, telephone, desktop, and any other frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Lastly and most importantly, get your flu shot. The best time to get the vaccine is in September or October before these germs start to spread, but it is never too late to get the flu shot. Most pharmacies and healthcare providers offer the shot and many of them offer it free with a health insurance plan.
Sometimes, no matter how vigilant and careful you may be, coming down with the flu may be unavoidable. For mild flu symptoms, get plenty of rest and drink a lot of water. Over-the-counter medications can reduce fevers and mitigate pain. A humidifier can help with a particularly stubborn cough or congestion.
Know the signs of potential flu complications and don’t ignore them! See a medical professional at the first sign of shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, dizziness, seizures, unsteadiness, unrelenting pain, severe abdominal pressure, or a fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
The 2019-2020 flu season is going strong. Know how to distinguish between cold and flu symptoms. Learn how the flu is spread. Avoid contact with sick persons and clean hard surfaces where flu germs may otherwise thrive. Get your flu shot and if you do end up sick in spite of your best efforts, get rest, drink plenty of fluids, and don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you need to.