October 01, 2018

Flu season

When to seek care

Your first winter illness came on fairly suddenly, with a fever and a slight sore throat. You had your flu shot but wonder if this could be the flu. Should you seek medical care?

For most older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, the best advice is to call your doctor's office and to be seen for an appointment if you're asked to come in.

Sometimes, symptoms clearly suggest whether you're dealing with viral influenza (flu) or another illness, such as a common cold. Symptoms of the flu can vary in atypical ways, particularly in older adults. In addition, adults 65 and older are at higher risk of complications with influenza — such as bacterial pneumonia.

Taking action

Dealing with the flu involves several key steps, including:

  • Getting the flu vaccine each year — This reduces the risk of flu infections and lessens the severity of illness if you get the flu. Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year, but it's still the single best protective measure available.
  • Practicing good hand hygiene — Clean your hands frequently using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water. Avoid large crowds and close contact with people who are sick.
  • Contacting your doctor as soon as you suspect the flu — Your doctor can determine if you have the flu and if an antiviral drug is appropriate. Your doctor may order a simple test that detects flu viruses.