What you need to know about this year’s flu

As you have probably heard, this year’s flu season is here and it’s gonna be ugly. The predominant “A” strain circulating is a mutant strain for which the current vaccine provides little protection.

But here are five things you may not know:

1. Flu symptoms start with high fever (often 102 F or above), fatigue, and bodyaches. The runny nose and coughing that you might expect, begins much later in the course of the illness. It’s important to think about flu when the early signs appear, as treatment is more effective when started within 48 hours of symptoms.

2. The rapid flu test is NOT very accurate. If your flu test is positive, you have the flu. But, a negative test does not rule out flu. The test is only about 50% accurate. Healthcare providers rely on their clinical judgment and decide whether or not to treat for flu when testing is negative.

3. Tamiflu does not provide immediate relief.  Antiviral medication works differently than antibiotics. Antibiotics kill illness-causing bacteria (like taking Penicillin for Strep throat)–so after taking just a dose or two, you start to feel better. Tamiflu, an antiviral, works by preventing the influenza virus from replicating–it shortens the duration of the flu and may reduce the severity of it.

4. Tamiflu can be unpleasant. About 10-15% of people who take Tamiflu feel nauseated and some actually vomit. If you weren’t feeling bad enough already…and the liquid version of the medication tastes pretty awful (so now would be a good time for your child to learn how to swallow a pill).

5. The Flu vaccine may still be helpful. There are usually 2 strains of flu that go around each year, an A strain and a B strain. The A strain begins the season and B shows up later in the season. The flu vaccine contains 2 A strains and 2 B strains–hopefully the B strain will be one contained in this year’s vaccine.

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