Cold & Flu Frequently Asked Questions

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What is seasonal influenza (flu)?
Seasonal influenza, commonly called "the flu," is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs). Unlike other viral respiratory infections, like the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.
In the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications, and; about 23,600 people die from seasonal flu-related causes.

Symptoms of flu include:

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • 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

What is the most effective way to prevent the spread of flu?

  • Get vaccinated!
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. No tissue available? Cough into your sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Follow the advice of your local public health department regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other measures to reduce flu transmission.
  • If you get sick, stay home. The CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

When should I contact my health care provider?

Get emergency medical care if you or someone you know has flu and any of the signs below:

  • Trouble breathing or chest pain
  • Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
  • Vomiting and unable to keep liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as dizziness when standing, less urine, or in infants, a lack of tears when they cry
  • Seizures (for example, uncontrolled convulsions (shakes)
  • Is less responsive than normal or becomes confused
  • Signs of flu that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash
  • Any other signs that are especially worrisome or concerning

Can you get the flu vaccine if you currently have cold/flu symptoms?
If you are moderately or severely ill, you might be advised to wait until you recover before getting the vaccine. If you have a mild cold or other illness, there is usually no need to wait.
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Is the flu shot right for you? 
The Center for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the U.S. to expand protection against the flu to more people -- everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.