Influenza (flu) is a common contagious viral respiratory illness that can affect the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Flu illness can vary from mild to severe. When severe, flu can result in hospitalization and even death. Some people are more likely to suffer serious flu complications, including older adults, pregnant people, young children and people with certain chronic health conditions. CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. Flu vaccination can prevent flu illness and its potentially serious complications. While flu vaccination varies in how well it works, an annual flu vaccination is the best way to protect against flu. However, there is a second line of defense for treatment of flu. Influenza antiviral drugs are prescription medications that reduce severity and duration of illness and also may prevent serious flu complications. CDC recommends influenza antiviral treatment for people who are very sick with flu and people with flu symptoms who are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications.
- The severity of flu seasons can differ substantially from season to season.
- You may be able to spread flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
- Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized because of flu each year.
- People with certain long-term health conditions, like asthma or diabetes, are at higher risk of serious flu complications.
- Take 3 steps to fight flu: get vaccinated, take everyday preventive actions, and take antiviral medicines if prescribed.
Certain people are at a greater risk of developing serious flu complications. These groups of people include: children younger than 5, adults 65 years of age or older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
- An annual flu vaccination is the best way currently available to reduce the risk from flu and its potentially serious complications. As long as flu viruses are spreading, you can still benefit from a flu vaccine.
- Avoid people who are sick. Stay home when you are sick with flu for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the need to use a fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Though less common, flu viruses can spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with flu viruses and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Check with your doctor promptly if you are at increased risk of serious flu complications and you develop flu symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe influenza antiviral drugs to treat your flu illness, which can lessen the severity of your illness, shorten the amount of time you are sick and prevent serious flu complications.