The flu doesn’t take the holidays off. This is the time of year when family and friends gather to celebrate, and often spread germs while doing it.
- The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
- Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
- Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days.
- Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), are at high risk for serious flu complications.
- The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.
- October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but you can still get vaccinated in December and later. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
Symptoms of flu include:
- fever (usually high)
- extreme tiredness
- dry cough
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle aches
- Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults
How long after exposure do symptoms first begin?
Symptoms usually appear 1 to 3 days after exposure.
How long is a person contagious?
Infected individuals are usually contagious from 1 day prior to 7 or more days after becoming ill.
Is there a treatment for flu?
Antivirals can be used to prevent or treat the flu. Children and teens with flu should not be given aspirin or aspirin products because of the risk of developing Reye’s Syndrome.
The best way to protect against the flu is to get a vaccination each fall. However, there are other good health habits that can help prevent the flu. These are:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.
Does flu vaccine work right away?
No, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and protect against influenza virus.