6 Facts You Need To Know About the Flu

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Winter is here – and so is the flu. To protect your family and those around you, make time to get flu shots.

“The CDC recommends a flu vaccine for everyone age 6 months and older,” says Amy Edwards, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UH Rainbow. “It's important to get an annual flu vaccination, especially if you or your child has a chronic health condition.”

How much do you know about the flu? Read on for six facts about this illness-causing virus.

The Flu is Caused By a Virus

The fact that flu is caused by a virus means that it cannot be treated with antibiotics. The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent illness. While a flu shot will not make you  immune to all strains of the flu, it can make symptoms milder if you do get sick.

“This year’s vaccine has four flu strains and is expected to protect against up to 70 percent of cases,” Dr. Edwards says.

Flu Symptoms Tend To Come On Quickly

Fever (101 degrees or higher), headache, chills, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose and body aches are symptoms of the flu. Children may have upset stomach or vomiting, but adults usually do not.

The Flu Can Be Life-Threatening

The flu can worsen certain medical conditions or may lead to pneumonia. Each year, the flu is responsible for between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths in the United States. Dr. Edwards says there may be a higher risk for severe flu among:

  • Children ages 5 and younger
  • Adults ages 65 and older
  • Pregnant mothers
  • People with medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung problems or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or weakened immune systems

You Can Get the Flu Vaccination at Your Doctor’s Office or a Health Clinic

Ask your doctor if you have questions. “It takes up to two weeks to get full protection from the influenza shot, so get your vaccination as early as possible,” Dr. Edwards says. “There are also now needleless vaccination options for children and adults to get their protection without the sting.”

The Flu Shot Does Not Cause the Flu

“When you get a flu shot, inactivated flu viruses are injected into your body. These dead viruses cannot give you the flu, but they do prompt the body to make antibodies,” Dr. Edwards says. “If you are exposed to the same strains later in the flu season, the antibodies fight the germs.”

The flu spray immunization is a live virus vaccine that can cause some mild symptoms, she says.

You Can Keep Influenza From Spreading

Prevention is the best way to prevent the spread of influenza and other cold and flu germs.

Dr. Edwards offers three tips that help prevent the flow of germs from person to person at home, work and school:

  • Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home when you're sick.

RELATED LINKS

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital has the region’s largest coordinated network of pediatric primary care providers, committed to delivering the very best care to children of all ages. Find a pediatric practice near you.

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