Flu Prevention and Treatment
According to the CDC, influenza vaccination is safe and effective and is the single best way to help protect yourself and your family from the flu each year. Since the virus and the vaccine changes every year, it is important to get a flu vaccination annually.
Learn more about flu vaccine for people of different ages or with different health conditions.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
What to do if you do get sick with flu:
Should you become infected, keep the germs from spreading by staying home. Most people are contagious for 24 hours before symptoms appear and then for an average of 5-7 days after symptoms appear. During this time, try to limit exposure to others, especially those who are at greater risk of flu complications. People with flu are no longer contagious after they have no fever without the help of fever-reducing medications for 24 hours.
Most people with flu will recover without complications. However, if you are in a high risk group or are very sick or worried about your condition, seek medical attention.
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
- Unable to eat
- Trouble breathing
- No tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick. However, starting them later can still be beneficial, especially if the sick person is at high risk of serious flu complications or is in the hospital with more severe illness.
Antiviral treatment is expected to lessen fever and symptoms and shorten the time you are sick. They also may reduce the risk of complications such as ear infections in children, respiratory complications requiring antibiotics, and hospitalization in adults.
Risk of Death
For people at high risk of complications, early treatment with an antiviral drug can mean having milder illness instead of more severe illness that might require a hospital stay. For adults hospitalized with flu illness, some studies have reported that early antiviral treatment can reduce their risk of death.
Available as a pill or liquid suspension under the trade name Tamiflu® or as a generic version. FDA approved for early treatment of flu in people 14 days and older.
Given intravenously by a health care provider under the trade name Rapivab®. Approved for early treatment of flu in people 2 years and older.
Administered using an inhaler device under the trade name Relenza®. Approved for early treatment of flu in people 7 years and older, but not recommended for people with breathing problems like asthma or COPD.
A single dose oral medication known by it's trade name of Xofluza®. Approved for early treatment of flu in people 12 years of age and older with the exception of pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, outpatients with complicated or progressive illness, or hospitalized patients.
Common Questions About Flu Prevention:
While holistic approaches like vitamins and supplements may have beneficial properties in some instances, there is no evidence that they can prevent flu as well as a flu vaccine.
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Page last reviewed: May 2020.