No one doubts we're living through a historically rough flu season with headlines every day shouting out the sad news of those that have succumbed to the virus. Most of us have had, or know someone that has had this dreaded crud or may be on the cusp of getting it. Recent reports indicate that as bad as it is, it is getting worse.

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Today from 1-4:30 PM only, across Louisiana the state is making flu shots available at no charge at Louisiana Department of Public Health offices. Here's the state website for more details - there are no gimmicks, and it could be worth your while to get the shot.

Southwest Louisiana Locations

In Calcasieu get your flu shot at Calcasieu Parish Health Unit - 3236 Kirkman St, Lake Charles - 337-478-6020. The CPHU Sulphur Satellite Clinic 201 Edgar St - 337-478-6020

In Cameron - The Cameron Health Unit, 107 Recreation Center Lane, 337-775-5368

DeRidder - The Beauregard Parish Health Unit - 216 Evangeline Street, DeRidder - 337-463-4486

Jennings - Jefferson Davis Parish Health Unit - 403 Baker Street, Jennings. 332-824-2193

Is it a cold or flu?

Many of the symptoms and miseries are similar, but typically flu presents a few different characteristics than a cold.

One main characteristic of flu is the speed of attack. Symptoms of the flu manifest very quickly, in hours as opposed to days for a cold. With flu, within 3-6 hours you can go from feeling ok to wanting to crawl into bed forever.

Fever is rare with a cold but reigns supreme in the neighborhood of 101° or more for 3-4 days. The flu's cough is a dry hack, while the cough of a cold is productive allowing you to hock up some fairly impressive lugies.

Headaches and chest discomfort are common with the flu, with the flu you may or may not have a stuffy and runny nose. Headaches can be severe, but you'll at least be able to contemplate whether your body or your head is hurting worse. Oh, you're going to be exhausted for weeks, even after you've returned to normal life.

So to sum up the flu hits you rather suddenly, like a hammer, brings fairly decent fevers and chills associated, and your head and chest hurt - as well as other parts of your body like you never dreamed could be possible.

Bottom line is if you think you're getting the flu, get into the doctor's office for a test that takes about a half hour and confirms definitely whether or not you have the flu or something more like an upper respiratory infection. Don't fool around, the flu and even a cold can devolve into something really bad including bronchitis and pneumonia inclusive of a hospital stay.

Wash your hands often, avoid sick people and stay well.