What is the flu virus?
Flu (influenza) is a respiratory illness of the nose, throat, and lungs. The following symptoms can arise suddenly and include:
- Fever and chills
- Sore throat or cough
- Muscle aches
- Not feeling hungry
- Nausea and vomiting
In some instances, influenza can cause a lung infection called pneumonia or exacerbate existing health issues. Even in good health, young people can become seriously ill from the flu.
How do people get the flu?
The number of people who contract influenza varies from year to year. But it is important to remember that before you feel sick, you and others can spread the flu. Influenza spreads:
- When an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes
- When you breathe in the virus
- When you touch something with the virus on it, such as hands or a door knob, and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose
How can I stop the flu from spreading?
Fortunately, you can take steps to stop the spread of the flu. These include:
- Getting vaccinated
- Washing your hands often with warm water and soap
- Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Coughing or sneezing into your arm or a tissue instead of your hand
- Staying home when you’re sick.
What is a flu shot?
Immunizations provide antibodies that aid in illness prevention. When you get vaccinated, your immune system becomes more powerful as a result. Contracting influenza is considerably riskier than getting immunized.
Is there more than one type of flu shot available?
Several flu vaccinations are approved for use in the United States. Flu vaccines protect against the three or four influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common during the upcoming season. Most flu shots given each year are quadrivalent. This means they protect against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
Flu shots are also regulated across age groups to ensure the appropriate dosage.
Most flu vaccinations are administered with a needle, typically in the arm, although a nasal spray vaccine is also available.
Who needs the influenza shot?
Influenza is a threat to everyone, especially if you have any of the following characteristics or conditions:
- Heart or lung issues
- A weakened immune system
- Are overweight
- Live in a care facility
- Are 65 years of age or older
- Are pregnant
- Have a high risk for influenza
- Are in close contact with someone who has a high risk, such as a family member
How effective is the vaccine?
The flu season begins in late autumn and lasts all winter. Each influenza season, the vaccine’s effectiveness varies. Even if the vaccination does not perfectly match the prevalent viruses in your area, it can still help protect you against contracting influenza or being severely ill. The influenza vaccine will begin to protect you two weeks after you receive it.
The influenza vaccine is the most effective approach to reduce your chances of acquiring influenza and developing related health problems. It may also help you from spreading the flu to others.
Is the influenza vaccine associated with any adverse effects?
The flu vaccine might cause side effects, although they are usually minor and resolve within a few days. Side effects can include:
- Redness, swelling, bruising, or feeling sore where the needle was inserted
- Feeling tired or unwell
- Fever or chills
- Body aches or aching joints
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
Anaphylaxis is an uncommon but dangerous allergic reaction that can occur in some people. If anaphylaxis occurs when you receive a flu shot, you will be given medication to treat the symptoms.
How can I manage side effects?
To help with soreness and swelling, put a cool, wet cloth over the area where you had the needle. If your symptoms are a bit more severe, there is medicine to help with a fever or pain. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure what medication or dose to take.
The flu is contagious for a couple of days before symptoms begin and remains contagious for 5-7 days after symptoms are noticed.