Flu (Influenza)


Mother checking daughter's temperature

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, if you get the flu, there are medications that can help treat it, and which are particularly important for some groups of people. Influenza antiviral drugs are prescription medications that can reduce severity and duration of flu illness, and also might 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.


Key Facts

  • 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 with 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.


Grandfather with granddaughter
Are you at high risk?

Certain groups of people are at a higher risk of developing serious flu complications. These groups of people include: children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 years old or older, pregnant people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

Get yourself and your family vaccinated!
Take Three Actions to Fight Flu

In this infographic, learn how to fight flu by getting vaccinated, taking everyday preventive actions, and taking antiviral medicines if prescribed.

Prevention Tips

  • 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 than spread through droplets that come from the nose and mouth when people cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses can also 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 higher risk of developing serious flu complications and you get 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 help prevent serious flu complications.