It’s that time of year again. That’s right, flu season. Whether or not you’ve had a flu shot, when you see people around you getting sick, it’s almost as if you’re waiting your turn. Many people have a difficult time telling the difference between cold and flu symptoms, but it’s important to know.

With a cold, it may start with a slightly sore throat, a runny nose, congestion, cough and perhaps even a headache. Fever is a common symptom in children, but rarely for adults. The flu is more aggressive, having all of those symptoms plus vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches and feeling run down for more than just a few days. In fact, many people in Dent County have said they’ve had a hard time bouncing back after having the flu this year. If left untreated, it could lead to more serious complications that would require hospitalization, such as pneumonia.

Dent County has seen 26 confirmed cases of flu so far this season; 13 type A and 13 type B, according to the Dent County Health Department. Fortunately, there have been no reported cases of the H1N1 virus, and this year’s bug isn’t that bad.

Cindy Fry, Infection Control nurse at Salem Memorial District Hospital, says that while the flu season began earlier this year, it’s no worse than it has been in previous years. The hospital isn’t seeing as many admissions for flu as they have in the past, but they are seeing a lot of visits to the ER. The most important time to seek medical attention when fighting the flu is if you’re having trouble breathing or your fever can’t be controlled.

SMDH has a lab equipped with technology considered the gold standard for flu testing. With a quick swab of the nose, lab technicians can test for flu type and positivity with more accuracy than ever before. The machine, called the BD Ventor System, detects flu proteins and the clear readout makes a quick diagnosis, says Donna Clark, MLT (ASCP).

What do you do to protect yourself? We’ve all been taught how important frequent hand washing is, and that hasn’t changed. Washing with soap and warm water will help to slough germs off the skin, but if you’re in an area where you don’t have access to a sink, hand sanitizer is useful.

It’s also important to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

If you’ve tested positive, you should stay home, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated. Don’t shy away from healthy juices, and try to eat something even if you don’t feel like it. If after a couple weeks you’re still not feeling like yourself, it may be time to see your family doctor. The flu really gives the immune system a beating, and it isn’t unusual to feel rundown after a couple weeks. It’s unlikely you’ll relapse, but it could be easier to catch another bug if your immune system hasn’t recuperated.

If you’ve not yet had a flu vaccination and would like to get one, the Dent County Health Center offers them for free to children and $25 for adults, but supplies are limited.