If you’re feeling under the weather, with a fever and muscle aches, you may have joined the millions who have fallen victim to this season’s strain of the influenza virus. And not to scare you if you’re feeling fine now, but the flu can stick around until May, so it pays to protect yourself. Still wondering what you can do to avoid getting sick? Below are answers to some common flu-related questions:
Is it too late to get a flu vaccine?
No! While it’s better to be vaccinated before the start of flu season in the fall, if you haven’t had a flu shot yet getting one now can still provide some protection. Flu season typically peaks in the months of January and February, but sometimes continues into April or May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it takes about two weeks for your body to develop flu-fighting antibodies, so don’t delay.
Should people with bleeding disorders get a flu shot? What about the nasal flu mist?
The National Hemophilia Foundation’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MASAC) recommends in MASAC Document #252 people with bleeding disorders follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ and the CDC’s vaccine recommendations. For the flu, that means everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated.
MASAC says intramuscular injections should be avoided, but when given, should be preceded by factor therapy. Intradermal flu vaccines, given under the skin instead of into a muscle, are another option. Consult your hematologist and the healthcare team at your hemophilia treatment center (HTC) about the best vaccination method for you and your child.
One thing’s for sure, though: Needles can’t be avoided altogether. Starting with the 2016-2017 flu season, the CDC stopped recommending the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine, saying it was ineffective.
How do I know if I have the flu?
Like a cold, the flu can cause a sore throat, sneezing, stuffy nose and coughing. Flu symptoms are often more severe, however, and may include fever, aches and chills. Symptoms also tend to come on quickly.
What can I do to feel better?
Get lots of rest and drink water and other clear fluids to avoid dehydration. Because the flu is very contagious, people who think they have it should stay home until they’re feeling better, or for at least 24 hours after a fever ends.
When do I need to call my doctor?
Most people don’t need medical care to recover. However, the flu can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infection, and can make chronic health problems, such as asthma, worse. Watch for these symptoms of complications:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or pressure
- Sudden dizziness or confusion
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Symptoms that go away and then return with a fever and cough
In children, also watch for:
- Bluish skin
- Lethargy or unusually irritable behavior
- Fever with a rash
In infants, be on the lookout for:
- Trouble breathing
- Inability to eat
- Signs of dehydration, like not having tears when crying or having fewer wet diapers than usual
What can I do to avoid the flu?
Washing hands and trying to stay away from those who are sick can prevent the spread of germs. And get that flu shot!