The peak time for people getting Influenza, the “flu”, is just getting started in the United States.

Typically, the months of February and March are when the highest number of Americans suffer from the “flu” and the complications of this viral disease.

If you did not receive a flu shot back in the fall of 2011 it’s not too late!

Getting your shot now will protect you within the next two weeks as the incidence of flu revs up.

Who should get it:

  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age or older.
  • Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease the risk of severe flu illness and includes young children less than 5 and especially less than 2 years, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people over 65 years of age.
  • Health care workers and people who live with or care for high risk people.
  • People who care for children less than 6 months of age.

But what’s the difference between the “flu” and a “cold” as this time of year many people catch a common cold?

The real flu has some very typical symptoms in people who truly have it:

  • Fever (or feeling feverish with chills), and the majority of the time very high fever (>102F); colds usually are low grade fever (<101F).
  • Cough from the very beginning that can be deep in the chest; colds may develop a cough later in the course of the illness.
  • Severe body and muscle aches; less likely with most colds.
  • Sore throat. This can be present with both.
  • Runny or stuffy nose. This can be present with both.
  • Headache. This can be present with both.
  • Fatigue. Can be severe with the flu.
  • Some people can have vomiting and diarrhea with the flu, though this is more common in children than adults.

Vaccination against the flu can protect you from getting the flu or decrease the severity of the flu if you contract it.

Your Doctor can test you for the flu and begin treatment if you are diagnosed with influenza.

The sooner the treatment is started the faster the flu will resolve.

The symptoms of the flu can last 2 weeks or longer, especially if left untreated.