Influenza (flu) is an infection in the lungs and breathing passages. It is caused by the influenza virus. There are different strains, or types, of the flu virus every year. The flu comes on quickly. It can cause a cough, stuffy nose, fever, chills, tiredness, and aches and pains. These symptoms may last up to 10 days. The flu can make you feel very sick, but most of the time it doesn't lead to other problems. But it can cause serious problems in people who are older or who have a long-term illness, such as heart disease or diabetes.
You can help prevent the flu by getting a flu vaccine every year, as soon as it is available. It is given as a shot or in a nasal spray. The viruses in the flu shot are dead, and the nasal spray (FluMist) has weakened live viruses. You cannot get the flu from the shot or the spray. FluMist can be given to healthy people ages 2 to 59. FluMist is not approved for pregnant women. The vaccine prevents most cases of the flu. But even when the vaccine doesn't prevent the flu, it can make symptoms less severe and reduce the chance of problems from the flu.
If you or your child has previously had an allergic reaction to the vaccine, do not get the flu shot without talking to your doctor. Sometimes, young children and people who have an immune system problem may have a slight fever or muscle aches or pains 6 to 12 hours after getting the shot. These symptoms usually last 1 or 2 days.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Everyone age 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine each year. It lowers the chance of getting and spreading the flu. The vaccine is very important for people who are at high risk for getting other health problems from the flu. This includes:
The person who gives the vaccine may tell you not to get it if you:
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if after getting the flu vaccine:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if after getting the flu vaccine:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.
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Current as of: November 10, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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