The CDC reports that flu season is now getting into full swing with more people being diagnosed. They also report that this year’s vaccine is matching the most commonly diagnosed strains, and that people should still seek immunization if they haven’t already been immunized.

Most people throw around the word “flu” so commonly that it’s difficult to think of influenza as an emergency, but it can be, and not just for the young or old. At the end of this article is a link to an ABC News story about a 29 year old mother of three who died from influenza, leaving behind the children and a husband who survived service in Afghanistan.

Once again, let’s start by reviewing the most significant differences between a cold and the flu.

One condition comes on gradually, fever is rare, aches are slight if any, and chills are uncommon. Sneezing, a stuffy nose and sore throat are common. Chest discomfort occurs but it’s mild to moderate and is often accompanied by a hacking cough. Headache is rare.

You probably recognized these symptoms as those of the common cold, and you are right. Now let’s review influenza.

Influenza comes on much more abruptly and fever is usually present and persists for 3 to 4 days. Chills are very common and achiness can leave you feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus. Sneezing, a stuffy nose and sore throat happen, but aren’t usual. Chest discomfort can be quite severe and is often present. Headache is very common.

Influenza results in approximately 200,000 hospitalizations each year and can be dangerous for all ages because it attacks the respiratory system and damages the body’s immune system. The result is that we’re more vulnerable to bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of pre-existing conditions like asthma or diabetes.

If you’re not sure what you have, don’t guess, see your doctor. The life you save may be yours, or it may be someone more vulnerable to complications than you are.

Here are some serious warning signs for children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child doesn’t want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with a fever and a worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

The CDC recommends immediate medical help for infants with these signs:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Significantly fewer than normal wet diapers

Among adults serious symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with a fever and worse cough

Still not sure the flu is a big deal? Visit the ABC News report mentioned at the top of the article.

The flu: it’s dangerous.