Flu vaccine is stock. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Since the typical strains of flu change from year to year, and protection decreases over time, the flu vaccine is given each year, usually in the fall. We especially recommend flu vaccines for our patients at higher risk of complications of the flu, that is: people under 5 years old or 50 and older, people with heart, kidney, or liver disease, lung disease (including asthma), diabetes, cancer, neurological conditions, and pregnant women. We also recommend flu vaccine for people who live with or care for people at higher risk.
Why Should You Get The Flu Vaccine?
- To reduce your risk of getting the flu. The flu virus causes illness in millions of people each year causing them to miss work or school. Even worse, the flu virus contributes to hospitalization and death in hundreds of thousands of people each year. Small children and elderly are particularly susceptible to becoming very ill.
- To reduce the chances of spreading the flu to others. The flu virus spreads rapidly and often will affect entire families, classrooms of children, and people at high risk of becoming very sick from the flu virus.
Medications to Help Lessen Symptoms of the Flu
Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for correct, safe use of medications.
Antiviral medications can sometimes help lessen influenza symptoms, but require a prescription. Most people do not need these antiviral drugs to fully recover from the flu. However, persons at higher risk for severe flu complications, or those with severe flu illness who require hospitalization, might benefit from antiviral medications. Antiviral medications are available for persons 1 year of age and older. Ask your health care provider whether you need antiviral medication.
Influenza infections can lead to or occur with bacterial infections. Therefore, some people will also need to take antibiotics. More severe or prolonged illness or illness that seems to get better, but then gets worse again may be an indication that a person has a bacterial infection. Check with your health care provider if you have concerns.
Warning! Do not give aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) to children or teenagers who have the flu; this can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
- Check ingredient labels on over-the-counter cold and flu medications to see if they contain aspirin.
- Children 5 years of age and older and teenagers with the flu can take medicines without aspirin, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®), to relieve symptoms.
- Children younger than 4 years of age should NOT be given over-the-counter cold medications without first speaking with a health care provider.
- The safest care for flu symptoms in children younger than 2 years of age is using a cool-mist humidifier and a suction bulb to help clear away mucus.
- Fevers and aches can be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
- Over-the-counter cold and flu medications used according to the package instructions may help lessen some symptoms such as cough and congestion. Importantly, these medications will not lessen how infectious a person is.
- Check the ingredients on the package label to see if the medication already contains acetaminophen or ibuprofen before taking additional doses of these medications—don’t double dose! Patients with kidney disease or stomach problems should check with their health care provider before taking any NSAIDS.
Check with your health care provider or pharmacist if you are taking other over-the-counter or prescription medications not related to the flu.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Care
Get medical care right away if the sick person at home:
- has difficulty breathing or chest pain
- has purple or blue discoloration of the lips
- is vomiting and unable to keep liquids down
- has signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing, absence of urination, or in infants, a lack of tears when they cry
- has seizures (for example, uncontrolled convulsions)
- is less responsive than normal or becomes confused
How Flu Spreads
The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.