What to know about the flu

Getting vaccinated for seasonal influenza is fast, effective, and available at no cost to you

beat the flu

While getting an annual vaccination for seasonal influenza (the flu) can help prevent those uncomfortable symptoms associated with the virus, it could also ultimately save your life (and the lives of those you love). “Influenza is a highly contagious and serious illness that still causes deaths each year,” stresses Scott W. Lindquist, M.D., state epidemiologist for communicable diseases and deputy health officer for the State of Washington.

Symptoms of the flu include a fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. While you’re most likely to contract the virus during flu season, although it can happen outside of that period, too.

Unfortunately, many flu symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19. However, the ways in which you prevent the contraction and spreading of both viruses are relatively similar. Use these stay-well strategies:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
  • If no sink is available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, then dispose of it right away
  • Avoid being in close contact with people who are sick, if you can
  • Keep at least six feet of distance between you and others in public
  • Wear a face covering while in public
  • Sanitize commonly used surfaces
  • Stay home if you’re sick

If you think you might have the flu and you’re over the age of 65, talk to your doctor about receiving a blood test to ensure a diagnosis. It’s important to do this within the first few days of showing symptoms. If you or someone you love is having trouble breathing, pressure or pain in your chest, new confusion, an inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face (all problematic symptoms of COVID-19), call 9-1-1 immediately. 

While taking protective measures to avoid infection is an effective way to stay healthy during flu season, one of the most critical steps you can take is getting your flu shot. Here’s what you should know about this super-important vaccination from Dr. Lindquist.

1. The Flu is Preventable
Although the flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, it’s your best defense in preventing the flu and staying healthy. Every year, a panel of medical experts examines the types of flu viruses that are currently making people sick, as well as what types of flu people came down with last year. This helps them develop a vaccine for whatever flu strains are most prevalent that year.

2. Some People Are More At-Risk Than Others
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who get the flu will get better in a couple of weeks. Some can develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus or ear infections.

The following groups of people are at risk for more serious flu- and COVID-related complications that require hospitalization, so it’s especially critical to get the vaccine if you or someone you love is: 

  • Under five years of age, especially those younger than two years old
  • Over age 65
  • Pregnant or up to two weeks postpartum
  • Residing in a nursing home
  • Native American
  • Has a health condition like asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease

3. You Need to Plan Ahead for It
The flu vaccine can take up to two weeks to work, so it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible. You can get your flu shot for no cost when you present your member ID at your doctor, a retail health clinic, or an in-network pharmacy. If you pay out of pocket for it, you can be reimbursed for the cost up to $50.