Pharmacist Chasity M. Shelton, a certified trainer for the American Pharmacists Association Pharmacy-Based Immunization Certificate Program, shared her best insights for fighting the flu in Tennessee. She works with University Health Services at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis to coordinate the annual campus-wide influenza vaccination event, Flu Fighters, along with students from UTHSC College of Pharmacy.
Why is there typically an increase in flu cases around this time of year?
Although it can occur year-round in the United States, it is more common in the fall and winter months. In the U.S., the typical increase in influenza activity starts in October and peaks between December to February. Although, activity can last as late as May.
What is the best method for preventing the flu?
The best method for preventing the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that everyone six months and older get the flu vaccine, if there are no reasons to withhold this treatment because of the harm it would cause you. It is also important to note that the flu shot takes two weeks to become effective. Although people report getting the flu after receiving the flu vaccine, it is likely due to the person being exposed prior to the two weeks it takes for the vaccine to be effective. It is recommended to receive the flu vaccine by the end of October. However, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial and offer protection.
What are the biggest symptoms of the flu?
According to the CDC, the flu is different from a cold because it usually comes on suddenly. People who are sick with the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When is it time to make a doctor’s appointment?
It is important to see a doctor within 48 hours of symptom onset so that an influenza antiviral prescription medication can be prescribed. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) is most effective at reducing the number of days of symptoms if taken within 48-hours of symptom’s onset. This medication can be prescribed to close contacts of the individual diagnosed with the flu as prophylaxis in order to decrease the risk of others contracting the flu.
What can people with the flu do to prevent getting others sick?
It is important to stay home when one becomes ill so as not to infect others. Frequent handwashing and the use of disinfectants are also helpful to prevent the spread of flu. Once the person has returned to a normal state of health, it is important to get the flu vaccine. This can prevent future episodes as it is possible to get the flu again.