Flu Season Facts

Please read below for information on influenza, prevention tips and vaccine options within Cedars-Sinai Medical Group.

What Is the Flu (or Influenza)?

The flu is caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu usually spreads through the air from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.

The "seasonal" flu is the typical influenza that occurs every year. The flu can cause mild or severe illness, and at times death.

What are the symptoms of the common seasonal flu?

  • Fever, headache, tiredness (extreme), sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches.
  • Symptoms usually begin one to four days after exposure to the virus.

 

Flu Prevention

How do I reduce the risk of getting the flu and other viral respiratory infections?

  • The first and most important way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year.
  • Stay away from others who are sick. If you become sick, stay at home to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others.
  • Wash hands often, especially during the winter, when the flu is most common. An alcohol-based hand rub can be used if soap and water are not available.
  • Keep hands away from nose, eyes and mouth. Viruses are most likely to enter the body through these areas.
  • Stop smoking. It irritates the lining of the nose, sinuses and lungs, which may make the body susceptible to complications of the flu. Secondhand smoke also could affect your child's health.

 

Seasonal Flu Information:

What types of vaccines are there?

An injectable influenza vaccine is the preferred option to protect yourself against the flu. Several injectable vaccine options are available, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not prefer one type over another. The most important thing is to get vaccinated every year. The nasal spray vaccine (FluMist®) has been shown to be less effective and is no longer recommended.

  • The injection can be given to anyone over the age of 6 months and is generally covered by insurance.
  • People with severe egg allergy, prior severe reaction to flu vaccine or a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome should not receive the flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. Please inform your doctor about any egg allergies or a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome before making your appointment.

Who should receive the seasonal flu vaccine?

The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for everyone over the age of 6 months. The following groups are at particularly high risk and are strongly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine:

  • Infants and children with chronic health problems, including asthma. These children may be more likely to have a severe illness with the flu, so it is especially important they receive the vaccine.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People who live with or provide care for infants younger than 6 months (such as parents, siblings and day care providers).
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel.
  • People who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications. This includes people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and those 65 and older.

How many shots are required?

Infants and children 6 months through 8 years old who are receiving the vaccine for the first time need two vaccinations given at least four weeks apart. Only one vaccination is required for all others..

 

Relief of Symptoms

Antiviral medications are available by prescription and should be considered in patients with severe influenza infection, and in those with the flu who are at high risk for flu-related complications.

When taken as directed, antiviral medications may reduce the duration of symptoms by one to two days, and may lower the risk of flu-related complications. These medications work best when taken early in the course of illness. Talk to your doctor promptly if you have influenza and are at risk of complications from influenza. More information can be found at the CDC website.

To relieve flu symptoms (fever, headache, extreme tiredness, sore throat, nasal congestion or body aches) we recommend:

  • Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for fever or discomfort
  • Elevating the head of the bed
  • Sitting in a steamed bathroom
  • Sleeping with a cool mist humidifier
  • DO NOT USE over-the-counter cough and cold medications for children under 4 years of age. Be sure to follow instructions carefully when using cough and cold medicines for children over age 4. Be sure not to give two medications containing the same active ingredients at the same time.

What won't prevent the flu or make you better faster?

  • Antibiotics. Antibiotics will not treat viral infections such as the flu. If a bacterial infection such as an ear or sinus infection develops after the flu, antibiotics may be helpful.
  • Large doses of vitamin C, zinc or other vitamins and minerals. This treatment may be unsafe for children.