The flu strikes one in five people each year, causing fever, body aches and misery. Though common, the flu can be dangerous for older people, babies and people with weak immune systems. About 200,000 people a year end up in the hospital during flu season with flu complications. The best treatment? Prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age 6 months and older get the flu vaccine every year.
What Is the Flu?
Seasonal influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It spreads through coughing, sneezing or touching items a sick person has touched. Although similar to a cold, flu symptoms are more severe and include fever, body aches, chills, coughing, congestion, headache and fatigue.
The most effective way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year. Getting a flu shot is quick and easy. The Sutter Health network offers a variety of ways to get your flu shot.
When should you get the flu vaccine? Get a flu shot in early fall to give yourself the most protection during flu season. However, you still can benefit if you get your flu shot by mid-winter. Learn more about flu prevention and flu shot effectiveness.
The flu vaccine not only prevents you from getting sick but also helps prevent the spread of flu to vulnerable people. Some people are especially vulnerable to flu, including young children, senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems. Sutter care centers offer a high-dose flu vaccine that may provide added protection for older adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly advise pregnant women to get vaccinated as well, since they’re more likely to have complications that require hospitalization. Learn more about pregnancy and the flu.
What to Do If You Get the Flu
If you have flu symptoms — fever, body aches, chills, congestion, coughing, headache — it’s best to visit your doctor or a nearby Sutter Walk-In Care clinic to get a diagnosis and treatment, if needed. Antiviral medication may help lessen flu symptoms, especially if started within two days of getting sick. Because the flu is caused by viruses, not bacteria, antibiotics won’t help. For the best flu care at home, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.