Article courtesy of Brad Melson, PharmD, Pharmacist at Blue Ridge Pharmacy

Cough, cold, and flu season is upon us! Even healthy people are susceptible to the flu, and it can be serious. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine unless it is contraindicated due to severe allergic reaction or previous adverse reaction to a vaccination. Protect yourself, your coworkers, and your loved ones by washing your hands often and getting a flu vaccine this season!

What is the flu? Both the flu and the common cold are highly contagious viruses, not bacteria. This is why antibiotics do not work.

When should I get vaccinated? As soon as vaccines are available each year (usually September), but at least by October. It takes 2 weeks for your body to fully develop immunity from the vaccine.

Can the flu be treated? Antivirals, such as Tamiflu®, can help shorten the duration of flu symptoms when started within 48 hours of symptom onset. Fever and pain can be treated with Tylenol® (acetaminophen), Advil® or Motrin® (ibuprofen), or Aleve® (naproxen). A dry cough and sore throat can be treated with cough medicine such as Delsym® (dextromethorphan), cough drops, and throat lozenges.

**Caution** Read over-the-counter (OTC) labels carefully as many flu and cold products contain multiple and similar ingredients which can be dangerous when taken together. Always talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking any OTC medication.

How do I know if I have the flu or a cold? Please see the chart below to help you determine if you have a cold or the flu. If you think you may have the flu, you should call your doctor’s office for guidance as certain populations are at a higher risk for serious complications. Only your physician can offer a definitive diagnosis.

Symptoms Common Cold Flu
Tired? Mildly Moderately to severely
Fever? Low grade or none Higher than 1000F
Chills? Rare Common
Body aches? Slight Usual and often severe
Headache? Less common Common
Sore throat? Common Less common
Cough? Hacking cough with mucus Dry, tickly, unproductive cough
Chest discomfort? Mild to moderate Often Severe
Stuffy nose? Common Less common