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Flu Facts

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults). Some people with the flu will not have a fever.

How Does It Spread?

Influenza or flu viruses usually spread via droplets expelled from sick people when they cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get the flu by touching something that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose.

How Long Is Someone Contagious?

People with the flu may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick to 5-7 days after. However, children and people with weakened immune systems can infect others for longer periods of time, especially if they still have symptoms. Children should stay home from school, daycare, or camp for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone (the fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine). A fever is defined as a 100°F temperature or higher.

How Can I Protect My Child?

The first and most important thing you can do is to get a flu shot for yourself and your child every year, as early as possible (usually in September). In addition to getting vaccinated, you and your child can take everyday steps to help prevent the spread of germs like:

  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • If your child is sick with the flu, keep them in a separate room away from others, if possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after it has been used.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect hard surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs, including bathroom surfaces, kitchen counters, and toys for children. Clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.

Is There A Flu Medicine?

A prescription antiviral drug like Tamiflu may lessen the severity of flu symptoms, but it only works when started within 2 days of the onset of symptoms.

I'm Worried About Vaccines

Common misconceptions about the flu vaccine is that it can either give you the flu or instantly protect you from it. The flu vaccine is made from dead viruses that can't give you the flu, but some report a low-grade fever or general aches for up to two days. The flu vaccine doesn't start working until about two weeks after you get it and even then, no medical treatment works 100% of the time. Also, those allergic to chicken eggs should not get the typical flu shot; instead, ask for the "egg allergy version."

Do I Really Need A Flu Shot?

Yes! Particularly if you live with someone who spends their days in a school (or hospital/long-term care facility)! Even if your child has been vaccinated, these germs will find a way into your home. Being infected with the flu is not fun for you or anyone you live with, particularly if you're a parent/guardian. People who are classified as high risk (below) REALLY shouldn't mess around!

  • Anyone under 5 (especially infants) or older than 65
  • Pregnant women and those who've given birth within 2 weeks
  • Those living in long-term care facilities
  • Native Americans
  • Those under 19 who are on long-term aspirin therapy
  • People who have:
    • asthma (even if it’s controlled or mild)
    • a body mass index of 40 or more
    • a weakened immune system
    • a neurological condition
    • chronic lung or heart disease
    • a disorder of the blood or liver
    • a disorder of the endocrine or metabolic system

Cold or Flu?

Symptoms

Cold

Flu

Body aches Not usually Almost always, often severe
Congestion, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing Almost always Sometimes
Exhaustion Sometimes, but never extreme Almost always, usually extreme
Fever Not usually Almost always
Headache Sometimes Usually
Location of symptoms Above the neck Entire body
Typical duration About a week 1-3 weeks