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Protect Yourself & Your Family Against the Flu

Family playing in snowFlu can be serious, especially for those who are pregnant, or who have diabetes, asthma, heart disease or other conditions that put them at high risk of having flu-related complications. If you are at high risk, call your doctor promptly if you develop flu symptoms, even if you have gotten vaccinated this year. If you have the flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs which can shorten your illness and help to keep you out of the hospital.

Even if you are not at high risk of complications, flu can be serious. Healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to friends and loved ones.

Here are some steps to keep your family healthy this flu season.

Take 3 Steps to Fight Flu

1. The first and best way to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccine every flu season.

  • Everyone 6 months of age and older is recommended to get vaccinated against the flu every year.
  • This season's vaccine is offering reduced protection, in part because the majority of flu viruses making people sick are different from the viruses the vaccine protects against. Getting vaccinated is still worthwhile, however, because the vaccine can prevent some flu infections, and other flu viruses may circulate later in the season.
  • Here's an important reminder for parents and caregivers: Many children getting vaccinated against the flu for the first time will need 2 doses of flu vaccine to be protected. If a child has not received his/her first dose, get them vaccinated now. For those who have been vaccinated with one dose and are younger than 9 years, parents should check with the child's doctor or other health care professional to see if a second dose is needed for the best possible protection.

2. Take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs.

  • If possible, try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you do get sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Wash your hands often with soap and water; if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Also, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

  • If you get sick with the flu, antiviral drugs can reduce the severity and duration of your illness. If you are at high risk for flu complications, ask your doctor promptly about antiviral medicines if you start to have flu symptoms. Early treatment with antivirals can be lifesaving, especially for people at high risk for flu complications.
  • People who are at high risk for influenza complications should see a health care professional promptly if they get flu symptoms, even if they have been vaccinated this season.
Grandmother holding grandbaby

People who are at high risk for influenza complications should see a health care professional promptly if they get flu symptoms, even if they have been vaccinated this season.

Who Is at Risk?

Everyone is at risk for getting the flu. For millions of people each year, the flu can cause a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed. You may not realize that the flu also leads to more than 200,000 flu-related hospitalizations per year and can be deadly. Between 1976 and 2007, CDC estimates that annual flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of about 3,000 people to a high of about 49,000 people.

Some people are at greater risk for serious flu-related complications like pneumonia. For those at greater risk for complications, it's especially important to get vaccinated every season. It's also important for those people to check with a doctor promptly about taking antivirals if flu symptoms develop. Some of the groups at greater risk include:

And people who have medical conditions including:

  • Asthma
  • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
  • People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
  • People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 40 or greater)

It is important to get vaccinated if you care for anyone in these high risk groups, including babies younger than 6 months because they are too young to get vaccinated themselves.

For more information about the seriousness of the flu and the benefits of the flu vaccine, talk to your family's doctor or visit