What is influenza (flu)?
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that can be prevented by immunization. It is not the same as the "stomach flu." Influenza is caused by a virus that attacks the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Influenza symptoms can include fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, and body aches. About 25% of children may also have vomiting and diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea is uncommon in adults.
How is the flu different from a cold?
The cold and flu are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different types of viruses. Cold symptoms are less severe than flu symptoms. While cold symptoms can make you feel sick for a few days, flu symptoms can make you feel quite ill for a few days to weeks. The flu can also result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and hospitalizations.
Can you get the flu from the flu shot?
No. Some people do get mild flu-like symptoms for a short time after being vaccinated, but this is a sign that your body is responding to the vaccine and giving you protection. It is not the flu. Also, because there are many cold viruses circulating in the fall, it is possible that a person could be infected and become ill at the same time they receive the flu vaccine.
What can you do to protect yourself and others?
- Get vaccinated (click here for more information)
- In general, people who develop influenza-like illness should stay home from work, school, or travel until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever without medication. Household members who begin to get ill should also stay home. Those who are severely ill (such as having trouble breathing) should seek medical care.
- Cover nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing; throw used tissues away.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand gel.
- Avoid contact with ill persons. Persons at high risk for complications should consider avoiding crowded or large gatherings if ill persons may be present.
What about antiviral medicines?
Antiviral medicines can offer some protection, but they are only recommended for use in certain groups of people. If you have questions about antivirals, talk to your doctor.