I woke up, got the children ready for day care, and sped off to work. By the time I arrived, I felt terrible. My throat was scratchy, my nose was stuffy, it hurt to breathe, and I had a bad cough. I ached all over, and even my skin hurt. I had a fever but felt chilled.

Apparently, I had the flu. Oh, how I wished I had gotten that flu vaccine. Never again, I vowed, would I make that mistake. I was one of thousands who caught the flu that year, and was in danger of spreading it to my family, my co-workers, and my patients.

What is flu?

Seasonal flu (influenza) is a respiratory illness caused by several viruses. Some people, usually young children, can have vomiting or diarrhea also. The flu can cause serious illness and serious complications in several high-risk groups, particularly young children, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease, and those who are age 65 and older.

Complications from flu infection include pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus or ear infections. You can imagine these would affect the youngest and oldest most, but last year’s flu hit young adults more severely than usual. Each year the flu is unique and unpredictable.

When you have the flu …

So what did I do when I found I had the flu? I went home, got lots of rest, used acetaminophen for fever and aches, drank lots of fluids, and washed my hands. Just what the doctor ordered.

Most often healthy people recover without serious problems, but it’s important to get immediate medical attention if you have difficulty breathing or chest pain, sudden dizziness, confusion, or severe vomiting. Antiviral medications can shorten the length of the flu illness, or prevent flu after exposure. Check with your doctor to see if these medications are right for you or your family member.

It’s flu season.

Flu season peaks from late November through March. Vaccination is the best prevention, but washing your hands, covering your cough, and eating well all help to keep you healthy.

Where to get a flu vaccine.

It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine this year! Find a flu vaccine near you by clicking on www.flu.gov. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “The flu ends with ‘U’.” I got my flu vaccine last week. When will you get yours?

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