THE FLU: What You Need to Know
Summer, spring, fall, and winter aren’t the only seasons of the year. Flu season also takes over Nevada and the rest of the country, with activity increasing in October and often lasting all the way through May. With the help of the CDC, here’s what the flu is, how you may be able to prevent it, flu myths, and what to do if you find yourself with the flu.
What is the flu?
The flu (aka: influenza) is a contagious virus that affects the nose and throat, and sometimes the lungs. Cases vary from mild to severe, even fatal. The flu is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing and talking.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Colds, COVID-19, and the flu are all caused by viruses and even share some symptoms. The flu is infamous for its sneak attacks that seem to come out of nowhere. One day you feel fine and the next day you may be in bed with one or all of the following symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
*Not everyone with the flu will have a fever
Flu sufferers are most contagious in the first three to four days of symptoms, sometimes even a day before the symptoms start!
How can I prevent the flu?
No one is immune to the flu, but here are a few steps you can take to help prevent it:
- Get the flu vaccine. It may reduce flu-related illnesses as well as complications from the flu.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and/or sneeze. One single sneeze can send 3,000 infectious droplets flying through the air!
- Avoid people who are sick.
- Clean household surfaces. Cold and flu viruses can live up to 24 hours on hard surfaces like countertops, desks and tables.
- Wash your hands often.
You have the flu, now what?
Health Plan of Nevada members have multiple ways of getting care when flu is suspected.
- Reach out to your primary care provider (PCP)
- Have a virtual visit: Video chat with a provider from your phone or computer,
24 hours a day! HPN members can download the NowClinic® app or go to NowClinic.com to sign up.*
- Call HPN’s 24/7 advice nurse: Our nurse is available around-the-clock to help you decide if you should seek urgent care, emergency care, or make an appointment with your provider.*
*If you have a life-threatening situation, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Flu myths and misconceptions
There are various misconceptions surrounding the flu and the flu vaccine. How do you know what’s true? Here are the facts about some of the top flu myths:
The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
Flu shots are either made from inactivated (aka: killed) flu viruses, or by using a single gene from a flu virus and not the entire virus. Both produce an immune response without causing infection. However, some people report having mild side effects after flu vaccination. The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur. If these reactions occur, they usually begin soon after vaccination and last 1-2 days.
It’s better to get the actual flu than the flu vaccine.
The flu can be very serious, and any infection comes with a potential risk of complications. It may hit younger children, older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions especially hard. A flu vaccine may help reduce the severity of the flu and decrease flu complications (if contracted).
You don’t need to get the flu shot every year.
Your immune protection from a flu vaccine weakens over time, so the CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated every year for prime flu protection.
Want more? Check out additional myths and misconceptions.
No one wants the flu. But prevention, detection and proper treatment may get you feeling better and back on your feet faster.