What to know as flu season comes in full swing

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Flu season is coming in full swing this time of year. We talked with an emergency room doctor at Ascension Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mich. to give us an idea about what to expect. 

"This is the beginning of flu season; we expect it every year. And, not to disappoint us, 2019 is coming on pretty strong," Dr. Steve McGraw told us. 

How can you tell if it's the difference between a cold and the flu? 

Dr. McGraw explains the flu starts rather abruptly. Within 6-8 hours you may have a fever, body aches and just overall feel relatively miserable, whereas at the beginning of the day you were fine. 

If you think you have the flu, it isn't always necessary to see a doctor. Dr. McGraw recommends seeing a doctor, though, if you have a chronic illness.

"You could have pneumonia, you could have other secondary problems that will make your heart or lung disease get worse," he said. "If you're an otherwise healthy person, you don't have to see a physician. If you can take care of yourself, take Tylenol, extra fluids, you'll ride it out."

When it comes to medication, Tamiflu, Dr. McGraw says, is great if it's prescribed to you within the first day or 36 hours. Any amount of time after that, he says, is really too long to get any benefit from it. 

If you got the flu shot and still get the flu, odds are your illness will be less life-threatening and shorter and more easily tolerated. The flu vaccine is still available, too, and Dr. McGraw says there's still time and value to getting one.