What is Influenza (also called Flu)?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent this illness is by getting a flu vaccination each fall.
Every year in the United States, on average:
Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.
Symptoms of flu include:
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children may get sinus problems and ear infections.
Flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. They usually spread from person to person, though sometimes people become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each fall. There are two types of vaccines:
About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against influenza-like illnesses caused by other viruses.
October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but getting vaccinated in December or even later can still be beneficial. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, all people six months of age and older should get vaccinated each year.
It should be noted that vaccination with the nasal-spray flu vaccine is always an option for healthy persons aged 5-49 years who are not pregnant. This vaccine is not subject to prioritization and can be given to healthy 5-49 year olds at any time.
Some people should not be vaccinated without first consulting a physician. They include:
If you have questions about whether you should get a flu vaccine, consult your health-care provider.
Our thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the use of this article.
Important disclaimer: The information on pkids.org is for educational purposes only and should not be considered to be medical advice. It is not meant to replace the advice of the physician who cares for your child. All medical advice and information should be considered to be incomplete without a physical exam, which is not possible without a visit to your doctor.
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