A Sam’s Club Pharmacist offers guidance and best practices on preventing wintertime illness and how to manage if you contract one.

By receiving your annual flu vaccine, you are doing the most important thing possible to prevent getting the flu virus and protecting those around you. While the flu is usually not dangerous, it can cause serious complications or even death, especially in those with compromised immune systems, the elderly and the very young. The current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation is that all persons 6 months and older should receive the influenza vaccine every year. One reason is that the vaccine is updated each year as slight changes in the virus strains emerge.

Many people have the mistaken notion that you can get the flu from the immunization itself. This is simply not true; since the injectable virus is already attenuated (killed), it cannot cause you to get the flu. However, the vaccine may trigger an immune response, so you may develop a few mild symptoms like achy muscles or a low fever.

While it is difficult to contain cold and flu viruses because they travel in the air and are often acquired from people who do not even show signs of illness, there are many things you can do to prevent the spread of infection:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Sneeze or cough into your arms, not your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes or mouth
  • Avoid touching objects in public places
  • Avoid close contact with people who have cold or flu symptoms
  • Quit smoking and avoid smoke
  • Clean all shared surfaces with disinfectants
  • Avoid sharing objects if you or those around you have cold or flu symptoms
  • Try to stay home if you are ill to prevent the spread of disease

Once you feel the symptoms coming on scratchy throat, headache, sneezing and coughing its best to treat only the most annoying symptoms.

Theres only a 1 in 4,000 chance that antibiotics will help most acute upper respiratory infections. Antibiotics can also lead to more resistant infections that are harder to treat. Antivirals may help in treating the flu if taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms.

See your doctor if your symptoms are not getting any better after a week or if you have fever lasting more than three days. If you have difficulty breathing, persistent fever, vomiting, painful swallowing, persistent coughing, persistent congestion and headache, your flu or cold may have developed into something more serious like pneumonia, and it may be time to consult your doctor.

Flu treatment tips

  • Be sure to read labels on cold medicines to prevent doubling up on medicines by accident.
  • Only treat the necessary symptoms.
  • Cough drops with honey and lemon can help sooth your throat as well as suppress a cough.
  • For a cough, try warm tea with honey or a cough suppressant.
  • For congestion, try a steamy shower, saline nasal rinse or a decongestant nasal spray or oral medication.
  • For runny nose, watery eyes or sneezing, try an antihistamine.
  • Nothing is better for you than rest and healthy drinks like warm broth, fruit or vegetable juice.

When it comes time to receive the vaccine, remember that prevention by immunization is much easier and safer than getting the virus itself.

Would you like to share an experience you had at the Sams Club Pharmacy?  Send us comments or feedback at hlms@samsclub.com, or write to us at: Healthy Living Made Simple, 1703 Phyllis St., Suite 202, Bentonville, AR 72712.