Flu is a seasonal threat that can result in extended illness or hospitalization. Vaccination each flu season is the best way to protect adults and children from seasonal flu and its complications.
Yearly flu shots are recommended by the CDC for everyone six months of age and older. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and death. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for full protection against the flu to take effect. Get your flu vaccine by the end of October for best protection.
Who should get a flu shot
Yearly flu shots are recommended by the CDC for everyone six months of age and older. Those particularly at risk for influenza complications include young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with a chronic illness. Parents and caregivers of those who are at risk for flu should also receive a flu vaccination.
Young children: Children, especially those six months through four years old, are more vulnerable to flu and its complications. It's especially important that children with underlying medical problems such as neuro-developmental or other disorders receive flu vaccination, since they can be at much higher risk of medical complications for death.
The flu shot is not approved for use in children less than 6 months old.
Adults 50 and over: People over the age of 50 are the largest group in the nation struck by serious or life-threatening cases of influenza. Older adults should also consider getting pneumonia shots. The pneumonia vaccination won't prevent pneumonia, but it can greatly reduce the severity and deadliness of pneumonia.
Anyone with a chronic illness: Chronic disease such as diabetes, or a condition like HIV that weakens your immune system, can greatly increase the risk of getting the flu, having it longer, and suffering from more serious medical problems as a result of it. People with diabetes are almost three times more likely to die from flu complications.
Pregnant women or women who will be pregnant during the flu season: Pregnancy can change the immune system in the mother, making flu and flu complications more likely. Flu can pose a risk both to the mother and her developing child. Flu vaccination for the mother can also protect newborns from the flu while they are too young for flu vaccination themselves.
Who should not get a flu shot
A flu shot is not recommended if you:
- Have a severe allergy to eggs
- Have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past
- Have had Guillain-Barré syndrome in the 6 weeks following a previous flu shot
Take 3: A three-part strategy to fight flu
1. Take time to get a flu vaccine each year
- Flu vaccination not only can help prevent the spread of flu, but more importantly, it can save lives. In the 2017-2018 flu season, an estimated 80,000 adults nationwide died from the flu, as well as 180 children. Three of those children were Mississippians.
- Each flu season brings new strains of flu that you need protection against. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
- Flu vaccine is available as traditional injections, nasal spray, and high-dose versions for older people. Whichever one you choose, be sure that you get it soon enough for a full season of protection – preferably before the end of October.
- Infants younger than six months of age aren't protected by flu vaccination. When you take steps to prevent to flu, you're helping protect them, too.
2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
- If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you have flu symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
3. Take antivirals to treat your flu if your doctor prescribes them
- Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications, especially if you take them as soon as possible after symptoms appear.
- For those at high risk, antiviral drugs can mean the difference between having a milder illness or more a serious illness, hospitalization or death.
- Antiviral drugs are only available by prescription.
- Antiviral drugs can treat flu once you become ill, but they can't prevent flu. The flu vaccine has proven to be the best way to prevent the flu.
The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine (IIV, RIV4, or LAIV4) with no preference expressed for any one vaccine over another.
An annual flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against influenza and its potentially serious complications.
Protective HygieneClean your hands
Clean hands prevent the spread of flu virus. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to stay healthy.
One of the most common ways to catch the flu is by touching the eyes or nose with contaminated hands. Handwashing prevents the spread of other communicable diseases as well: hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea among others.
- Wet your hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap.
- Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub thoroughly past your wrists.
- Continue for 10-15 seconds — about the time it takes to read these instructions. Soap combined with scrubbing acts to remove germs.
- Rinse well and dry your hands.
- More about handwashing
It's In Your Hands
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
The flu virus easily enters the body when you touch a contaminated surface and transfer the virus to the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Stay home when you are sick
You are more likely to catch the flu if you are already sick with a cold or other illness. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick to keep yourself and others well.
If you are sick, continue to follow the handwashing guidelines above.Cover your mouth and nose
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of any illness to others.
Wash your hands after using a tissue.
Avoid close contact
Flu spreads easily: avoid close contact with those who are ill. If you are sick, avoid contact with others to keep them well.
How can I tell a cold from the flu?
The flu's symptoms come on suddenly and can include a high fever and severe aches and pains. A cold, however, rarely causes a fever or severe aches and pains.
|Fever||Usually none||High fever (102 - 104° F); lasts 3 to 4 days|
|Headache||Usually none||Headaches can be strong|
|General aches, pains||Very little||Often severe aches and pains|
|Fatigue, weakness||Mild||Fatigue for up to 3 weeks|
|Extreme exhaustion||Never||Exhaustion begins early and remains|
|Stuffy nose||Nose usually stuffy||Sometimes|
|Sneezing||Sneezing is common||Sometimes|
|Sore throat||Throat is usually sore||Sometimes|
|Chest discomfort, cough||Sometimes||Chest discomfort and coughing can be severe|
|Complications||Sinus congestion or earache||Bronchitis, pneumonia; can be life-threatening|
|Prevention||None||Annual vaccination or antiviral medicines; see your doctor|
|Treatment||Only temporary relief of symptoms||Antiviral medicines: see your doctor|