Many people view the flu as just another fact of life. This viral respiratory infection is so common, it has its own season. Flu season strikes each October and continues through spring, causing thousands of new cases each year. But your family doesn’t have to fight the flu each winter! By arming yourself with a few fast flu facts, you can be prepared to tackle cold and flu season the right way: healthy and happy.
With cold and flu season right around the corner, now is the time for action. Read on to learn more about the flu and how you can protect yourself – and others – from this serious illness.
Facts About the Flu
1. The Flu is a viral infection.
“The Flu” is short for ‘Influenza’, which makes sense – the infection is caused by influenza viruses that you inhale or touch on contaminated surfaces. Most cases of seasonal flu are caused by influenza A and B viruses (though humans can contract Influenza C, cases are typically mild and self-contained). These viruses spread easily from person to person, especially in shared spaces like schools, gyms, and office buildings. As with all viral infections, there is no cure for the flu.
2. It is an evolving enemy.
Influenza viruses are masters of mutation. Antigenic drift, or small changes in the genes of influenza viruses over time, can create new flu viruses that are different enough that the body’s immune system has a harder time recognizing and fighting against them. This is why a new flu vaccine is formulated each year. Scientists forecast which strains will be most prevalent and create the new vaccine accordingly. It’s a little like predicting the weather, but for viruses.
3. It has a speedy spread
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: the flu virus can travel up to six feet when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This means that simply chatting with a friend or standing in line at the grocery store can put you and your family within range. Always practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and coughing or sneezing into your elbow.
4. Flu ≠ Common Cold
While the flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses that strike during winter, they are caused by different viruses. The flu often hits harder and faster, with more severe symptoms and a longer range of recovery. Symptoms of the common cold include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Mild Cough
- Sore Throat
Flu symptoms come on suddenly 1-4 days after infection and can be moderate to severe, with issues like:
- Fever and/or chills
- Muscle Aches
- Severe fatigue
- Sore throat
- Chest discomfort
5. It can have deadly complications
In vulnerable patients like young children, elderly adults, and patients with compromised immune systems, the flu can be deadly. Serious complications can include pneumonia, inflammation of major organs like the heart or brain, sepsis, and multi-organ failure.
6. The Flu Shot saves lives
The annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from influenza infection. Getting the flu shot drastically reduces your risk of serious symptoms and hospitalization and can help slow the community spread to protect your high-risk neighbors. Despite lingering myths, the flu shot is safe, effective, and crucial to public health.
7. You have easy access to flu shots
And speaking of flu shots, did you know we offer them six days a week right here at Urgent Care of Fairhope? We’re making it as convenient as possible for you to stay protected. No appointments needed; just check our waitlist online and stop by our walk-in clinic at a time that’s convenient for you.
We understand that flu season can be a time of worry, but with the right knowledge and preparation, we can all stay a step ahead of the virus. Keep these facts in mind, share them with friends and family, and remember that we at Urgent Care of Fairhope are always here to help. Whether you need a flu shot, advice, or treatment, our doors are open to serve you six days per week.