CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The 2019-2020 flu season is quickly approaching and physicians at Novant Health want to make sure you are prepared.
Like every year, they recommend you get a flu shot. Medical Director of Novant Health Dr. Charles Bregier says it’s important for everyone to get vaccinated, but especially people who are at high risk of having complications from the flu. The people most at risk for complications are pregnant women, people who are 65 years and older, and children 5 years old or younger.
Babies can receive the flu vaccine starting at 6 months old.
“The only people who should not get the flu vaccine are people who have a documented severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine and there are very few of those,” Dr. Bregier said.
He says most flu vaccines are made from three to four inactive strains of the virus. When injected into the body our immune systems will prepare to fight off the virus if we’re exposed to it later in the season.
Because there are several strains of the flu, it’s important to still get the flu shot even if you’ve come down with the flu already this year.
“You could actually get all four strains of the flu, get sick four times with the flu in one season, so get the flu shot,” Dr. Begier said.
If you do come down with the flu you could get a dose of an antiviral if you take it within the first 48 hours of your symptoms.
“They actually interfere with the virus’ ability to replicate in your body,” Dr. Bregier said. “So let’s say you have the flu and you haven’t had the flu shot, you can go to the doctor and you can start taking these medications that will pretty much stop the virus from replicating in your system which pretty much stops it in its tracks.”
You cannot take antibiotics to treat the flu because antibiotics are for bacterial infections and the flu is a virus. However, he says sometimes the flu can lead to a bacterial infection.
“They may develop a secondary, bacterial infection after having had the flu that they may need an antibiotic for,” Dr. Bregier said. “Again, if you’ve been sick for a week or two and you haven’t gotten better, symptoms are changing probably good to go to the doctor.”
If you do come down with the flu, keep in mind you could be contagious 12 to 24 hours before you start showing signs or symptoms. Dr. Bregier adds that you should not go back to school or work until after you have not had a fever for 24 hours.
“That’s kind of the gold standard after the fever has resolved, not taking anti-fever medications. So, if you’re still taking Tylenol or aspirin, you need to continue to stay home until you don’t have a fever for 24 hours medication free,” Dr. Bregier said.
He recommends quarantining yourself to one bedroom or bathroom in the house, if possible, because the virus can spread to doorknobs and other surfaces you touch. The virus can live on those surfaces for up to 24 hours.