Are you prepared for the flu?

I read an article today about the 2019/20 flu season is probably the worst we have seen in quite a while. The National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases can’t predict how bad it will be, but it is already on track to surpass the deadliest flu season of 2017-18. There has been nothing like this in over 40 years.

By the end of 2019, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) reported 2900 people in the United States have died of the flu. Our current flu season started in October 2019. At least 6,400,000 flu illnesses have been reported with over 55,000 hospitalizations.

Flu is very unpredictable. Many children are sensitive to the influenza B virus – this year’s predominant strain. Adults who have weathered previous influenza B attacks have immunity to this particular virus. Influenza B virus is relatively stable compared to the not-so-stable influenza A virus.

How do you know if you have the flu, a cold, or pneumonia? A virus causes the common cold. Antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses. Symptoms of the common cold include sore throat, cough, runny nose, congestion, fatigue, sneezing, achy muscles, and headaches.

Influenza, on the other hand, is more severe than the common cold. It infects the lung, nose, and mouth. The symptoms are similar but not the same. They include sudden fever, chills, cough, sore throat, loss of appetite, achy muscles, fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes.

Pneumonia settles in your lungs. It can be viral or bacterial caused. Breathing is a struggle. Pneumonia is more severe than the common cold and the flu. Symptoms include fever, coughing, phlegm, shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain. Antibiotics would be useful if bacteria caused the pneumonia. Seek medical treatment.

Over-the-counter medications might help some common cold symptoms. It is wise to seek medical advice when your common cold symptoms persist longer than a week. Cold symptoms are prevalent for three or four days, followed by a week or more of congestion.

Over-the-counter medications might help with flu also. The flu lasts for at least a week and, in many cases, two weeks. The severe symptoms will plague you for two to four days. The overall fatigue and dry cough might last a bit longer.

Pneumonia is more complicated. It can take from one to six weeks to recover, depending on your doctor’s treatment. A weakened immune system can exacerbate pneumonia and create a longer-lasting illness, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or even asthma. Even after a full recovery, it might be another month before you feel normal again.

Consult your physician when in doubt, especially if breathing becomes a problem. Be careful of self-medicating if you have asthma. Wash your hands often, and stay away from others. Staying home and resting is highly advised.

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