Influenza (flu) is highly contagious and sends up to 500,000 people to the hospital every year. It causes 3,000 to 50,000 deaths, depending on the severity of each year’s flu season. And, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says Arkansas is one of the states with a high number of flu cases.
If you want to “flu-proof” your family, take this quiz to learn how to keep them safe.
1. Flu is largely preventable by:
A. Getting a flu shot every year
B. Washing your hands a lot
C. Staying home when you’re sick
D. All of the above
D. is correct. The most important thing you can do is get a flu shot every year. Many studies have proven that a flu shot reduces flu illness, complications, doctor visits, hospitalizations and missed work due to illness. Flu shots also help prevent the 3,000 to 50,000 deaths caused by flu every year.
2. Who needs a flu shot?
A. Adults only
B. Children over age 5
C. Everyone over the age of 6 months
D. Older people in poor health
C. is correct. Beginning at 6 months of age, everyone should have a flu shot every year. Anyone can get the flu, even healthy people with strong immune systems. Flu shots also prevent the spread of flu and are especially important for people with chronic illness who have a higher risk for serious complications. Flu shots are safe for pregnant or nursing mothers and also protect the baby until it’s old enough for its own shot at 6 months. There are several flu shot options for people who are allergic to eggs. If you have a moderate to several illness, delay the shot until you’re fully recovered.
3. A flu shot lasts several years. True or false?
False. A flu shot provides good protection for about six months. You need a shot before each year’s flu season starts in the fall or winter. Flu viruses change from year to year and the vaccine is changed to protect against the most widely circulating viruses.
4. How long does it take for a flu shot to be effective?
B. Two weeks
C. One month
It takes about two weeks for your body’s immune system to fully protect you against flu viruses. If you were exposed to flu before getting your shot, you may get the flu, even with a shot. You just waited too long. Don’t make that mistake next year. Remember, you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. They are made from inactive viruses that cannot cause flu. Some people may feel tenderness at the injection site that can last a day or two. This is because you had an injection, it is not the flu.
It’s best to get a flu shot before the end of October. However, there’s still time to get one. Flu is circulating in many states and Arkansas has already had seven flu deaths this season.
5. Flu is more than just a bad cold. True or false?
True. While both the common cold and flu are respiratory illnesses, different viruses cause them. Flu symptoms are much worse, strike suddenly and may include fever/chills, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, cough and extreme tiredness. Children with flu are more likely than adults to have vomiting or diarrhea.
Flu, unlike a cold, can cause serious complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus, ear or lung infections. If you already have heart or lung problems, flu can make them worse. Other serious, even deadly flu complications include inflammation of the heart, muscles or brain; multi-organ failure; and blood infections such as sepsis or bacteremia. Flu complications can make chronic conditions worse, such as asthma or congestive heart failure.
Symptoms of a cold are much milder and more likely to cause a runny or stuffy nose. A cold rarely causes serious complications and it takes less than a week to recover.
6. More than 90% of children admitted to hospital intensive care units with flu had not received a flu shot. True or false?
This is true. About half of the children who died from the flu and its complications were perfectly healthy before getting the flu. Why any parent would take such a deadly risk with their child’s life is difficult to understand.
Flu complications in children include viral or bacterial pneumonia, bacteremia, ear infections, breathing complications, seizures, swelling of the brain, prolonged hospitalization and death. If your child gets the flu, he or she will miss school, feel terrible for up to two weeks and could develop life-threatening complications. Unvaccinated children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years of age should initially have two doses of flu vaccine to build full immunity.
7. What’s the best treatment if you get the flu?
B. Fluids only, avoid solid foods
C. Stay home so you don’t infect others, rest and drink plenty of fluids
D. Antiviral medicine
C and D are correct. Antiviral medicines can shorten the time you have symptoms to one to two days and prevent serious complications. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine if you are in a high-risk group, very sick or hospitalized. A prescription is required for these meds. Ideally, start an antiviral within two days of your first symptoms. The sooner you start them, the better they work.
The CDC recommends that all seriously ill and hospitalized patients with suspected flu be treated with an antiviral.
Stay home until your fever has been gone for 24 hours. Drink a lot of fluids; hot beverages such as herbal tea or chicken broth can soothe a sore throat. Good nutrition will help you heal faster so eat solid foods if you have an appetite.
A. is not correct. Antibiotics are useless against an illness caused by a virus. Antibiotics only work to kill bacteria. However, if your flu develops into a bacterial infection such as bacteria pneumonia or sinus infection, then your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
8. You can get a free flu shot. True or false?
True, most private or employer-sponsored health insurance offers free flu shots as a free preventive benefit. Government insurance through the Arkansas Works program, regular Arkansas Medicaid and ARKids First also provide flu shots at no cost to the patient.
People on Medicare can get a free shot if their provider accepts Medicare as payment in full.
The Arkansas Department of Health’s county health units offer free shots. Click here for contact information for your county’s health unit.
Flu shots are also widely available at your doctor’s office, clinics and