Which would you choose — having fun or having the flu? If you chose fun not flu, we've got some tips to help you have a happy, healthy flu season.
Did you know that influenza (aka the flu) afflicts roughly 60 million Americans annually? Or that there are multiple varieties of flu viruses? Here is what you need to know to prepare for the 2019-2020 flu season.
What is the flu?
The Flu is a highly contagious respiratory virus that comes on suddenly. Symptoms, such as body aches, fever, and a cough, typically develop one to seven days after exposure, and can last from a few days to two weeks. Having the flu may include any or all of the following symptoms:
- Fever (usually 100.4°F or higher, lasting for several days), often with chills
- Body aches or muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Eye pain, such as burning, pain on eye movement or sensitivity to light
The good news is that gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea or nausea and vomiting, are fairly uncommon. And because the flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics that are effective against bacteria aren’t useful when you have the flu.
How do you get the flu?
The flu is spread person-to-person primarily from airborne particles generated by coughing and sneezing, as well as by physical contact with contaminated surfaces like door handles, countertops or anything else an infected person touched recently. So practice your cough and sneeze technique and good hand hygiene to keep yourself and those around you healthy during flu season.
Should I get a flu shot?
Yes! At One Medical, we encourage all our patients who are eligible to get vaccinated against the flu. It’s the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu. In fact, the flu shot not only reduces your risk of getting the flu and lessens symptoms if you do get sick, it also helps prevent the flu from spreading. If you are in close contact with young children, anyone elderly or with a serious illness, getting vaccinated can reduce their chances of coming down with the flu and developing complications like pneumonia.
Moreover, the flu shot is especially important for infants and children, anyone pregnant (or planning to become pregnant), those over the age of 50, those with a chronic medical condition, and those caring for someone who is at risk for complications of the flu. These special groups are at high risk of serious complications of flu, like hospitalization, pneumonia and even death.
Do I need a flu shot every year?
Yes, it’s recommended. Each year, the flu vaccine is updated to better match the strain(s) of flu expected to cause the majority of flu cases during the upcoming flu season. Because flu viruses can mutate from season to season, it’s important to get a flu shot every year to ensure you and your loved ones are protected. While it’s possible immunity from a prior year’s shot can be protective, One Medical stands with other bodies such as the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization in recommending annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older.
When is the best time to get a flu shot?
It’s best to get your flu shot before flu season starts, so we recommend getting vaccinated in September or October, once the current season’s vaccine is available. Because flu season in the US can last as late as May, it’s still worth getting vaccinated even after October. Also, it can take up to two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and protect you against the flu, so keep that in mind when planning to get vaccinated.
Are flu vaccines safe?
Yes, absolutely. Flu vaccines have been studied carefully and are very safe. Even though some people get sick despite getting a flu shot, the flu shot itself can't give you the flu. Some people report symptoms such as body aches and low-grade fevers after getting a flu shot. This is due to your body’s developing a healthy immune response to the vaccine. These symptoms usually resolve within 24-48 hours. There has been an association between the flu shot and a serious complication called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), but this is extremely rare - fewer than 1 or 2 people per million who receive the vaccine will develop this syndrome, and the vaccine has been shown over and over to be safe and effective. If you have concerns about the vaccine’s safety, you can read more from the CDC here.
Talk to your provider if you’ve had a bad reaction to a vaccine in the past before receiving your next flu shot.
How much does the flu shot cost?
The vaccine is completely covered by most insurance plans. Alternatively, if you don’t have insurance, One Medical members can pay out of pocket: $45 for the regular, pediatric and egg-free vaccines, and $75 for the high-dose. Please check with your insurance carrier if you have questions concerning your coverage.
What do I need to know about walk-in flu shots at One Medical?
Members can walk into any One Medical location during regular lab hours to receive a flu shot. You can find your One Medical location’s lab hours on our flu homepage (NY flu homepage here). Worried about wait times? Give us a call in advance and we can let you know what to expect.
If you or your child are a One Medical member under 14 years old, you can walk into any of our One Medical family offices. Only family offices can provide flu shots to pediatric patients.
Should I get tested for the flu?
If you have the symptoms described above during a flu outbreak, it’s likely you have the flu and there’s usually no need to be tested. In most cases, it’s best to stay at home and rest. If you’re a One Medical member, use Treat Me Now or a virtual visit on our app to speak with a member of our medical team. They’ll make sure you get the care you need, including an office visit if necessary.
What should I do if I get the flu?
There’s really no substitute for the tried-and-true treatments. Get rest, drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol and tobacco, and take acetaminophen (Tylenol) and/or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) for fever and body aches (as directed on the bottle). Check with your provider if you’re under the age of 19 and are considering using aspirin. And remember, antibiotics won’t help you recover from the flu.
Prevent the spread of illness by washing your hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into your arm (not your hands), and throwing out tissues immediately after use. You’re contagious from the day before you develop symptoms until 24 hours after your fever breaks.
Don’t return to work or school until you have had a normal body temperature (under 100.4°F without taking a fever-lowering medication such as Advil or Tylenol) for at least 24 hours.
If you’re worried about complications of influenza (e.g., if you are becoming short of breath or your fever is persisting), or if your symptoms worsen, please use our virtual visit features on our mobile app. We’re available 24/7 to care for you.
Should I take an antiviral medication like Tamiflu?
If taken during the first 48 hours of the illness, antiviral medications such as the oral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or the inhaled drug zanamivir (Relenza) can lessen the severity and shorten the duration of your symptoms. However, if taken longer than 48 hours after the onset of symptoms, they have little effect. Some side effects of these medications include nausea, diarrhea, and headache. As such, for most people we don’t routinely recommend antiviral medication.
Those who are very sick with the flu (like people whose illness is so severe they need to be hospitalized) and those who are at risk of developing serious flu complications (either due to age, pregnancy, or because of a high-risk medical condition) are recommended to take antiviral medication. If you’re unsure if you are recommended to take antiviral medication, or you have additional questions, please contact a member of your care team.
Can the flu shot make me sick?
A common myth that has been hard to shake is the belief that the flu shot can cause the flu. This is not true. You definitely can’t get the flu from a flu shot because there are no active germs (viral particles) in the shot. You can, however, develop mild flu like symptoms such as body aches, feeling tired, and a low grade fever, but this isn’t the flu. The flu is much worse! Instead, this is your body creating an immune response to help you fight off any future exposure to the flu, and these symptoms usually go away in a day or two.
Do I still need the flu shot if I never get the flu?
If you never get the flu, that’s great!, But the flu shot not only protects your health, but it protects those around you as well. If you are around older, frail people, very young people, like babies, or people with chronic illnesses, the flu shot can help you prevent them from getting it too, as they are at risk to get very sick or even die from the flu.
It’s easy to get your flu shot through your One Medical membership. If you’re already a member, just drop by any office (outside of NY) during lab hours — no appointment needed. Located in New York? You can get your flu shot at one of One Medical’s flu shot clinics or during an appointment. If you have any other questions about the flu, reach out to our virtual medical team on our app (iOS or Android) who can help you to start feeling better.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.