Some parts of the country are declaring health emergencies, as more people come down with the flu. All of the commotion could send you rushing to the emergency room when all you have is a cold.
Doctors say it's not hard to tell the difference between the flu and a cold if you know what you're looking for.
Coughing, sore throat and a runny nose are symptoms of both the flu and a cold, but how fast you got to feeling bad could say a lot about what has you down.
"The flu typically is a sudden onset of pretty severe symptoms. People get sick pretty quickly," says Trinity Mother Frances Emergency Physician Earnest Stroupe.
Stroupe says people with the flu usually have a high fever of 102 or 103.
"People just feel wiped out, they feel achey all over. They feel weak. They have no energy and you can kind of see it in their eyes," Stroupe says.
If your fever is 99 or 100 degrees and you could feel it coming, then you might be fighting a cold.
"People have more gradual onset of symptoms... typically more runny nose, congestion, upper respiratory symptoms and nasal congestion," says Stroupe.
Though, no matter what you have, you don't necessarily need to be treated-- especially if you're young and generally healthy. If you didn't jump for treatment fast, you can pretty much forget about it.
"If your flu started three days ago, you could take Tamiflu, but it's probably not going to help you. If your symptoms started within 24 to 48 hours, it will probably help," says Stroupe.
If you haven't had the flu yet, the advice from doctors is all the same-- get a flu shot.
"Scientists have picked the best combination of the three influenza viruses that have been circulating and put them into this year's vaccine,' says Dr. Michael Jhung from the Centers for Disease Control.
Because the flu and the vaccine change every year, doctors encourage people to get a flu shot every year.
Unless the ER is your only option, the best bet may to be avoid it during flu season. Showing up at the ER as a flu-fighting precaution, might send you home with the virus. Family physicians and urgent care offices are an alternative to the ER.
Doctors say young children, pregnant women, elderly people, and others with pre-existing medical conditions should make it a point to get a flu shot. It's not too late to get a flu shot unless you've already come down with the flu.
We put in a few calls to local pharmacies to see who still has flu shots available. If you want to see the list of pharmacies and their current supply, click here.
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