Another Flu Question

Updated on January 16, 2013
B.B. asks from Bedminster, NJ
13 answers

The day my son came down with the flu my parents and my husband and I were all with him. 2-3 days later we all came down with varyng degrees of symptoms. We all got the flu shot. None of us had fevers, just really bad coughs, feeling tired, headaches, and runny/stuffy noses. My parents went to the doctor who "tested them" for the flu which came out negative. I know correlation does not equal causation but it seems like a huge coindidence. I believe we all contracted the flu but because of the shot we were able to get by with only mild symptoms that lasted 5 - 8 days. Any doctors or nurses that can help me out to understand?

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So What Happened?

YES, my son had the actual flu. He was on Tamiflu and he responded very well. I am not sure what strain of the flu he had though. My son was the only one in the family who did not get the flu shot.

My question is "Can someone have a milder version of the flu (because they got the flu shot) and test negative at the doctor's office"? From my research, the doctor's office test is not all that reliable. They have to send the swab out to a lab to be 100% sure. That is why my son's doctor didn't do the swab. It was obvious from my son's symptoms that he had the flu.

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answers from New York on

There is a really bad cold going around. I've had it three times (still ongoing), without ever getting over it in between. But it's a cold, not the flu.

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answers from Dallas on

If they had the flu, they would have tested positive for it. The flu shot, does not make existing influenza invisible to tests. Was your son actually tested for the flu? He likely had one of the many viruses or colds going around, and the rest of you caught it.

ETA: was your son TESTED and had a positive, for the flu? Tamifu helping, does not mean he had the flu!!

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answers from Seattle on

Your parents tested negative. They did not have the flu. Maybe they just had a bad cold.

You? I'm guessing you weren't tested and don't know if you had the flu. If you did get the flu, your symptoms would have been mild because you had the flu shot. (By the way, it takes 10 days to 2 weeks for the flu shot to become really effective.)

Your son had the flu (tested positive) and was the only who didn't receive a flu shot.

This isn't rocket science. Summary:

1) Your son didn't get a shot and got the flu. Tamiflu would have eased his symptoms.

2) You got a flu shot. You may or may not have caught the flu (it could have been a cold). If it was the flu, your symptoms were probably reduced.

3) Your parents got a flu shot. They did not get the flu (as shown by the test).

The results are what would be expected to happen. Colds are similar to the flu but generally with less severe symptoms.

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answers from Albany on

Was your son actually tested? He probably had a different virus... sometimes kids will get a cold or virus with a fever. An adult may get the same virus with no fever, because their immune system is stronger. If it were the real Influenza virus, you would have a high fever and be miserable for several days. Hope you all feel better and don't get the real flu!

I just saw your update and you said "yes, he had the flu, but he did not have the swab, it was obvious from his sypmtoms". Again, lots of other virus' mimic the flu, but without the swab, you can't be sure. And, Tamiflu can help other virus' as well, or it could have been that he would have gotten better without the Tamiflue. However, the flu shot can help to decrease the symptoms of the flu even if you get it. But I think the test would have still come back positive, even with a mild case. But you will never be sure if your son didn't actually have the swab....

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answers from Jacksonville on

My husband and I both had some sort of respiratory virus about 2 weeks ago. He had it first, for about a week, and then I started having symptoms. Both of us had flu shots earlier in the season. His cold (not the flu) was much worse than mine. Lots and lots of congestion and phlegm and coughing for about 5 days. Mine was more sinus-y and headaches, less coughing than he had, and only was "bad" for about 2 days. Neither of us had fevers, or aches/pains (aside from a little bit of soreness in the sides from coughing fits).

I have no doubt that we did NOT have the flu (influenza), but just some cold virus. Both our kids also had flu shots, and neither of them developed any cold symptoms whatsoever. I suspect husband caught a cold from work, and I caught it from sleeping next to his coughing fits. I was careful to disinfect common surfaces in the house so the kids were less likely to come in contact with it (husband cloisters himself in our bedroom when he is sick, lol).
If your son was not actually tested, then you really don't know whether he had the flu or not, and neither does his doctor. He made an educated guess based upon the symptoms but didn't verify it with testing, because I'm guessing it wouldn't have changed his course of treatment one bit, and he isn't required to report it to anybody for tracking, either. So it simply saves you/your insurance company money, by not sending it off to the lab.

It would stand to reason, in my book, that if all of the adults came down with symptoms 2-3 days after being around your son when he started showing symptoms, then you all caught what he had. Your parents' tests were negative for flu, which says to me, that your son didn't have it either.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Was your son tested for the flu? You didn't mention and if he wasn't there is a chance he had some virus not the flu.

From what I understand if you have the flu, regardless of symptoms, you will test positive for the flu.

Odd bit of useless data, in our office the flu has been running around. The only people who have got it had the shot. The people who didn't get the shot, none of them have been sick. Now if I could just figure out what that means.
After your what happened, you still haven't said if he was tested. If you called the doctor and he said it sounds like the flu, prescribed Tamiflu, he still may have had a virus. It works for more than just the flu.

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answers from Washington DC on

I am not a nurse but I have gotten the flu shot religiously for years and yes, have gotten flu in that time, and I firmly know that in my experience the flu was much milder than it would have been otherwise. Having had it in the days before flu shots were widely available, and then afterward, I feel that the flu symptoms were lessened by the vaccine even when it did not "nail" the exact strain that I got.

It's possible that your parents had a bad cold and not flu since there was no fever, which is a very typical flu symptom. Around here there is a cold virus running around among adults and kids too (I'm on my second round, and I'm a clean freak....oh well) and what you describe could be a cold and not flu. Was your son confirmed by a test to have flu?

It is possible that he had flu and the rest of you shared a cold. But I hope you all feel better now. Keep getting those flu shots every year!

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answers from Chicago on

I believe the flu shot helps to both prevent and lessen the symptoms.

My three kids all had the flu shot this fall, but my husband and I did not. My whole family got the flu over the holidays. My daughter brought it home from a girl in her class. She came down with it the day winter break started. She had a mild fever, body aches, and congestion and just felt crummy for about 4 days. I came down with it Christmas night and it hit like a ton of bricks. I was down for about 4 days which included a trip to the ER for a breathing treatment. I hadn't been sick like that in 15 years. My other two kids got it after me with mild cases, then my husband got a bad case and was down for about 3-4 days.

My parents and grandmother, who had all gotten flu shots, were around us the whole week including Christmas Day while I was coming down with it, and was most contagious, and none of them got it. Not even my 86 yr old grandmother.

So to me, this proves what I've always thought and I will never skip getting the shot again. Ever.

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answers from Washington DC on

There's a lot of things going around and the shot is only about 62% effective this year. I did not get a flu shot and have some sort of head cold, same as many of my friends. The shot would not have prevented me from getting a head cold. It could jst be coincidental. After holidays and gatherings, it is very common for people to get sick as you visited people and shared germs. I would suspect that since you were a couple of weeks out of the holidays that you all shared a cold.

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answers from Dallas on

We do not get the flu shot and so far we have been very healthy.

However, I have 3 close friends who got very ill after the shot. One is still in the hospital.

It is weird how the people we know who are sick did get the shot and those who did not get the shot are not sick. Strange.

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answers from Madison on

Not necessarily--by the time my husband went to Urgent Care and told the doctor his symptoms (got sick on Sat, went to Urgent Care on Mon; fever from 101.2 to 103.4, severe chills/shakes, sweated thru his clothes 7x)), the doctor told him he had Influenza. The doctor never tested him for it.

He actually had both the flu AND a cold together. The cough is still lingering. I caught the cold from him; still have the cough.

We don't get the flu shots. We prefer to get the immunity naturally and use natural means to take care of it.

There was a 14 year old girl in MN who contacted the flu. She had gotten the flu shot. She ended up in the hospital. She didn't make it.

The flu shot is a hit or miss. It didn't help the young girl.

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answers from New York on

The hallmarks of flu (that differentiate flu from a cold) are fever and malaise/aches. It is possible for a rapid flu test to come back negative and still have the flu, but if you didn't have a fever or aches, I doubt it was the flu. Was your son's flu confirmed as such with a test or just diagnosed via symptoms?

And for the poster who said the vaccine is "only" 62% effective, that's true. However, that means that getting the vaccine reduces your risk of getting the flu by nearly 2/3. Obviously you can still get the flu if you're vaccinated, but your chance of getting it is only about 1/3 of what it is if you weren't vaccinated. So yes, you can catch the the flu if vaccinated, but you're much more likely to catch the flu if you're not.

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answers from Portland on

There are dozens of flu strains circulating at any given time somewhere in the world. Different strains have somewhat different characteristics and can cause a variety of symptoms, some worse than others. Because flu is an upper-respiratory disease, it can look a lot like a bad cold, and vice versa. (Google to compare symptoms.)

The only way to know for certain is to have a swab taken, but sometimes symptoms are so clear that the swab is considered unnecessary. Few lab tests are 100% accurate, so I'd guess there can be false negatives.

The vaccine in any given year contains only the 3 flu strains that are predicted to be the most troublesome or dangerous in the upcoming flu season. It's an educated guess based on that year's patterns. Sometimes other strains become a greater problem and spread faster than anticipated, and people who've had the shot can catch those. It's not known whether the protection lasts more than a year.

This year, the vaccine is reported to be quite effective – some years less so. The vaccine is not guaranteed to protect completely, and has recently been shown to be less effective in the very young and the elderly, because you need a robust immune system to achieve full coverage. But even so, the vaccine seems to moderate the flu if the vaccinated person catches a strain covered by that year's shot.

It is still possible to catch the flu during the days before and after getting the shot – it takes about 2 weeks for the body to mount maximum immunity (assuming you've got a normal immune system).

I've had respiratory infections occur after having the shot, but I've never had a full-blown case of the flu since making sure I get the coverage at the beginning of the season. With diabetes and chronic asthma, I have to be extremely careful about respiratory illness, and I have had VERY serious bronchial infections that hung on for months when I used to catch every cold and flu that came along. I've actually broken ribs from hard coughing. So I'm glad for whatever degree of protection I can get from the vaccine.

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