Let’s Get Vaccinated!
Flu season is quickly approaching! Now is the time to make sure you know what preventative measures to take before flu season hits. In this article, we will dive into all things influenza and deliver recommendations to help you understand the importance of prevention.
What is the flu?
The “flu” is short for influenza; a contagious respiratory illness that ranges from mild to severe. There are two main types of influenza: Types A and B, which are routinely spread in people and are responsible for the seasonal flu epidemics. Influenza is characterized as a virus that spreads mainly by droplets when people cough, sneeze, or talk.
How do I know if I have the flu, a cold, or even COVID-19?
Ultimately to determine what kind of infection you have will require evaluation by a qualified medical professional, but there are some differences in symptoms between the flu, common cold, and COVID-19. The flu is more commonly associated with fever and muscle aches than the cold, while sneezing and sore throat are most common with the cold. Coughing is strongly associated with flu and COVID-19, but usually develops later with a cold or not at all. The main identifiers of COVID-19 vs. flu and cold are shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing. Nausea/vomiting are also more common with COVID-19. Sometimes COVID-19 is associated with loss of taste or smell.
||Rhinovirus (common cold)
||Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue
||Sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing* *coughing usually develops a few days after sneezing and stuffy nose
||Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, loss of taste/smell, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea
||Appear 1-2 days after exposure (quick)
||Appear 1-3 days after exposure (slow)
Appear 2-14 days after exposure (slowest)
Varies on severity
||Prior to symptom development & up to 7 days after
||Prior to symptom development & up to 14 days after
||Prior to symptom development until symptoms resolve
Is anyone at higher risk than others?
Anyone can develop the flu, but some age ranges are at a higher risk than others― especially those with pre-existing conditions. These patients include those 65 years of age and older, people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, immunocompromised conditions, pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years.
What should I do to prevent myself from getting the flu?
The number one preventative measure we can take to prevent the influenza virus is receiving the yearly vaccine. This vaccine is given once a year and lasts throughout the entire flu season. Many people don’t realize that the flu is actually detected year-round, but has a peak in the fall and winter months. The peak of influenza occurs between December-February and may last until May. We recommend receiving the influenza vaccine in September or October to make sure the vaccine lasts through peak flu season. Other preventative measures for the flu include the following:
- Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and COVID-19, are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.
- Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives
Tips on hand washing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- It’s a SNAP Toolkit: Handwashingexternal icon
Hand washing resources from the It’s A SNAP program, aimed at preventing school absenteeism by promoting clean hands. From the School Network for Absenteeism Prevention, a collaborative project of the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Cleaning Institute.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Which vaccine is right for me?
There are many flu vaccines available, but speaking with your pharmacist will allow us to choose the best vaccine for you. Prior to receiving the vaccine, we will ask you a couple of simple questions to understand your medical history. Different influenza vaccines are given based on your age, conditions, allergies, and medications. The chart below lists the names of some common flu vaccines.
|>65 years old
-Fluzone High Dose (quadrivalent)
|Quadrivalent: includes 2 types of Influenza A and 2 types of Influenza B
>3 years old for pharmacists
Quadrivalent: includes 2 types of Influenza A and 2 types of Influenza B
|>18 years old
Are pharmacists able to give vaccines?
YES! Pharmacists are able to give a wide-variety of vaccines including the influenza vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently authorized pharmacists to give flu vaccines to patients 3 years of age and older. The influenza vaccine is an intra-muscular injection given within the deltoid muscle of the upper arm. After the vaccine, we will contact your primary care doctor to update he/she with your vaccine information.
Will the vaccine give me the flu or make me sick?
The influenza vaccine is not considered a “live” virus, therefore the virus is inactivated and people cannot get sick from the vaccine. Once in the body, the virus is recognized and the body fights it as it would a normal virus. Special cells within the body remember the virus and will understand how to kill it if the body is ever exposed to it again. Some patients may experience fever, nausea, and muscle aches as if they have the flu itself; however, this is just the response from the immune system. If you are concerned about having these symptoms, you may take Tylenol every 8 hours the day of the shot and for about 2 days afterwards to help prevent a reaction. It is possible for you to still get the flu even if you got a flu shot, but importantly the vaccine will make the virus less contagious to others and can cause your flu symptoms to be less severe (which can save lives in high risk patients).
If you have any questions about the flu or other vaccines, please do not hesitate to contact your Central Pharmacy pharmacist at 919-220-5121!
Written by Hannah Glasscock
Campbell University || PharmD 2021