This story is from Commonwealth Care Alliance. Read more here.
What is the flu?
The flu is short for “influenza.” It’s a viral infection that affects your respiratory system, including your nose, throat, and lungs. The flu can often be more serious for people who are over 65. It can also be more serious for people with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.
How do I prevent the flu?
The arrival of colder weather comes with a tradition: the annual flu vaccine. There’s good reason. Getting the flu shot is a safe and effective way to prevent illness during flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu shots for everyone 6 months or older. A high-dose flu shot is usually recommended for people age 65 and over. Getting the shot is especially important for people with chronic conditions. By getting your flu shot, you are also helping to protect babies, young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
More than one influenza virus can occur in a flu season, and the vaccine can help protect you against all of them. Also, the flu virus evolves quickly. New vaccines are created each year to keep up with the changing viruses. That’s why a flu shot you received last year may not protect you against this year’s virus.
Good news: It’s not too late to get your flu shot! Flu season lasts until May. Even though flu season has begun, getting your shot is still useful. Flu shots are available at your healthcare provider’s office and at many pharmacies.
On top of your flu shot, remember to wash your hands regularly. Keep six feet apart from others when possible—especially if they have cold or flu symptoms.
How do I know when I have the flu?
Here are the most common flu symptoms:
- Aching muscles
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Tiredness and weakness
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Eye pain
- Sometimes, a cold can be mistaken for the flu. With a cold, you do not typically have a fever or get the chills.