The seasonal flu is a respiratory infection of the nose, throat, and sometimes lungs, caused by a virus. It’s commonly spread by talking, sneezing, and coughing. While most flu cases only cause mild to moderate symptoms, older people, young children, and those with other health concerns are at a higher risk of experiencing severe flu symptoms — and even needing to be hospitalized. You can help keep yourself healthy with everyday habits like washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and by getting your annual flu vaccine (either an injection or a nasal spray) from your doctor’s office, local pharmacy, or walk-in clinic.
Cold and flu season begins every fall and lasts through end of winter, peaking between December and February. Most people experience cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fever, and fatigue for about seven days after symptoms first begin.
Because the virus spreads every fall and winter, it’s important to determine if you have the flu, know what to do to recover, and recognize when to seek medical care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best thing to do if you don’t feel well is to stay home and rest. To prevent spreading germs, avoid being in close contact with others, wash your hands often, and clean anything you touch. Most people with the flu will only experience mild symptoms and may not need medical care. But those who are pregnant, 65 or older or under 5, or living with a chronic health issue should call their doctor. Plus, you should call your doctor if you feel worse than you think you should or if you’re worried about how sick you are.
Most people usually start to feel better within a week. If you get the flu after you’ve had the flu vaccine, you may start to feel better faster.
Yes, there are several types of tests that can help diagnose the flu. Two types of tests, the rapid influenza test and the rapid molecular assay, provide results in 15-25 minutes. The rapid molecular assay is generally more accurate than the rapid influenza test. Your doctor may not need to use a flu test to diagnose you, instead relying on clinical expertise to diagnose you after an exam.
The flu, common cold, and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, but they have very similar symptoms. While flu symptoms usually come on much more suddenly than common cold symptoms, the only way to be sure is to see your doctor and get tested.
Since the seasonal flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, the CDC says it’s possible — although very uncommon — to have both at the same time. This is called a coinfection. Even though it’s rare, people with a coinfection are at a higher risk of developing more serious symptoms that can land them in the hospital.
While the best course of treatment for most people is to stay home and rest, if you are at a higher risk to develop more severe symptoms (like those who are pregnant, 65 or older, or living with a chronic health issue), your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine to help reduce the length and severity of your illness. These treatments are more effective earlier on in the illness, so it’s important to talk with your doctor as soon as you start feeling ill.
If you have a fever or body aches, you should start to feel relief from those symptoms around day 4 or 5. Other symptoms should improve in the following days.
Yes. It’s possible to develop severe symptoms, even if you think you’re in good health otherwise. Head to the hospital or seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, a high fever, can’t stop vomiting, or become confused.
Head to the hospital or seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, a high fever, can’t stop vomiting, or become confused.
Yes. Because there are several different variants of the flu, you can get the flu more than once in the same season.
It may seem unavoidable, but there are lots of ways you can help protect yourself from getting the flu and spreading it to others around you.
You can take everyday actions to help stay healthy, but the most important thing you can do is get the flu vaccine from your doctor or a local pharmacy.
Get your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine