This week happens to be National Influenza Vaccination Week. Although the influenza virus doesn't take a holiday and is a year-round concern, the winter months and cold weather tend to keep us inside more, which makes it easier to catch a cold -- or the flu.
So how can you tell the difference?
Symptoms of a cold take a few days to build up, while flu symptoms come on fast. If you're coughing, sneezing, have a runny nose and watery eyes --but no fever-- you probably have a cold. And it'll likely last three to 10 days. But if you have those symptoms AND you develop chills, fever, body aches, pains, general weakness and fatigue --you've got the flu-- and it will most likely knock you down for more than a week.
There are precautions you can take. Getting a good amount of sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly, washing your hands often and staying away from others who are sick --these are great habits. But they won't guarantee you'll be safe from the flu.
And frankly, neither will a flu shot.
BUT WITH A FLU SHOT, YOU HAVE SOME PROTECTION. And most likely if you get the flu after you have this protection, it won't last the usual three weeks.
Some people don't realize it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to take full effect, once it's in your body. This is one reason why some complain they got a flu shot and still got sick. Also, and like most vaccines, the flu shot isn't perfect. The influenza virus is a living organism that constantly mutates, and our best flu vaccines are educated "guess-timates" at which strains of flu will be circulating at any given time.
But a flu shot still gives you some protection. And if you want that protection sooner rather than later, get a flu shot now. The vaccine is available in lots of places, including our public health centers. It doesn't matter where you get it as long as you get it when it can do you the most good. As an FYI, the flu season tends to start peaking in January.
So as the song goes, you better watch out!
Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy holiday!
Veerinder (Vinny) Taneja
Tarrant County Public Health Director
County Telephone Operator 817-884-1111
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