- Flu or influenza is a viral disease with predominant symptoms, such as runny nose, cough, chills, general malaise, headache, sore throat, and body ache.
- Other symptoms are shortness of breath and loss of taste sensation.
However, every flu symptom may not be seen in every individual.
Fever (oral temperature of 100°F or higher) is a defense mechanism launched by the body to halt the progression of the virus or the bacteria; however, every person has a specific reaction to the pathogen.
Some may develop all symptoms except fever, while others may feel feverish though the thermometer may not show fever. Additionally, some individuals may take over-the-counter medications for sore throat and runny nose, which may contain some amount of acetaminophen, so they may not develop a fever at all.
Are my symptoms flu or COVID-19?
- You may choose to get tested at home (for both seasonal flu and COVID-19) with help of home testing kits that give quick results when you test your nasal swab.
- Alternatively, you may visit your healthcare provider and ask for a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test (gold standard to diagnose COVID-19 and flu).
While the virus that causes COVID-19 and the flu viruses are thought to spread in similar ways (droplet infection by coughing and touching contaminated surfaces), the COVID-19 virus is more contagious compared to flu viruses and can evade the existing immunity much faster.
As of present, the COVID-19 virus seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people, such as:
- The elderly
- Those with heart diseases and diabetes
- Those with diseases that compromise immunity (such as patients who are human immunodeficiency virus-positive)
- Those on immunosuppressive medications
The delta variant of COVID-19 illness has been known to cause severe respiratory illness and increased mortality even in young, healthy individuals.
Additionally, the COVID-19 infection can cause serious complications that include blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs, or brain, as well as a multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) and adults (MIS-A). These are COVID-19-specific complications not observed in flu.
Long COVID-19 is an umbrella term for a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first being infected specifically with the COVID-19 virus.
- Long COVID-19 can happen even if your illness was mild or if you had an asymptomatic infection.
- It is characterized by nonspecific symptoms, such as anxiety, palpitations, dizziness, chest pain, brain fog (disorientation and memory issues), rashes, fatigue, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and so on.
Is flu vaccine necessary?
In the present scenario, it is essential to take the flu and COVID-19 vaccines (with booster) as directed by your healthcare practitioner.
Though influenza (flu) is not as serious as COVID-19 in most people, it can be potentially serious in the elderly, kids, and those with a weak immune system.
- Complications of flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
- An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza-related complications.
Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits, including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and flu-related death in children and the elderly.
All flu vaccines in the United States are “quadrivalent” vaccines, which means they protect against four different flu viruses: an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and two influenza B viruses.
You can take the vaccine listed in the table that is best suited for you after discussing it with your doctor.
|Vaccine type||Vaccine brand name||Route of administration||Indications|
|Quadrivalent cell-based influenza shot||Flucelvax quadrivalent||Injectable||6 months and older|
|Recombinant quadrivalent influenza shot||Flublok quadrivalent||Injectable||18 years and older|
|Quadrivalent flu shot using an adjuvant||Fluad quadrivalent||Injectable||65 years and older (elicit a stronger immune response)|
|Quadrivalent high-dose influenza vaccine||Fluzone high-dose||Injectable||65 years and older (contain a higher dose of antigen for better immune response)|
|Live attenuated influenza vaccine||FluMist quadrivalent||Injectable||2 to 49 years (contraindicated for pregnant and immunocompromised persons)|
The following individuals should not take the flu vaccines:
- Severe reaction to a previous flu shot
- History of Guillain–Barre syndrome with any previous vaccination
- History of egg allergy (only some type of flu vaccine contraindicated)
The intranasal flu vaccine is not recommended in the following populations:
- Pregnant women
- Immunocompromised individuals (human immunodeficiency virus-positive, immunosuppressant medications, cancer patients)
- Those with cochlear implants
- 50 years and older
- Those who have cerebrospinal fluid leaks due to head surgery, trauma, or preexisting condition
- Severe allergy to any component of the vaccine
- 2 to 17 years old individuals on aspirin and other medications containing salicylates
- Those who have recently taken antiviral drugs
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
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