Although it is right in the middle of the influenza season for Arizona residents, there is still a benefit to having that preventative flu shot if you have not yet had one.
According to the Arizona Department of Health and Services, the flu season peaks much later in the year here than other states around the country and can last up until May.
A local pediatrician said the single best way for everyone to protect themselves against the flu is to have a shot before the beginning of the season, typically in October, but this goes especially for children and people with weakened immune systems.
However, even if you have not had one yet this year, Dr. Mary Jo Kutler, D.O. of Ahwatukee Pediatrics, said that by getting one now you could avoid risk of infection during the peak of the season, which could be approaching.
If you do become infected, however, the best thing to do is to rest and drink lots of fluids, Kutler said.
Symptoms are similar to that of a normal head cold but can be much more severe. A fever over 100.5 degrees, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, a sore throat and fatigue are all things to look for to determine whether or not you have the flu or just a cold. If you have questions about your diagnosis, ask your doctor.
Kutler said the biggest misconception that people have about the flu is that it can be confused with the common cold when it comes to treatment of the symptoms. The fundamental difference being that influenza is a viral infection and the common cold is usually caused by bacteria.
Thus, antibiotics cannot help someone who has influenza. In some cases, they can actually do more harm than good. WedMD states, "Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment."
Antiviral medications are an option for someone who has already contracted influenza, but the timeframe to use them is small. A person can shave one to two days off their infection period by taking antiviral medication within 48 hours after the onset of illness.
As for preventatives measures beside the shot itself, Kutler recommends utilizing sanitary measures, especially around children.
"Good hand washing techniques are best as well as instituting infection control practices in everyday life," she said. "Pay attention to your child's body cues. If they are tired then they need rest. Do not send them to school if they have a fever (over 100.5) and really the best thing to do is to let them rest and drink fluids."
The peak of the symptoms typically last for up to 72 hours, but, as the virus is extremely contagious, someone should stay at home until all symptoms have subsided.
To find out more information about influenza, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, www.CDC.gov/Flu.
Editor's note: The term "common cold" is incorrectly used in an above paragraph. The point Kutler wanted to make was that people are sometimes not aware that antibiotics cannot help with symptoms caused by a virus. The term "common cold" is associated with other viral infections and not bacterial infections as it is stated. The AFN sincerely regrets the error.