Seasonal influenza (flu) is caused by viruses which infect the respiratory tract (the nose, throat, and lungs). Even young, healthy people can get the flu, and it can be serious. According to the CDC, each year between 140,000 and 710,000 are hospitalized and between 12,000 and 56,000 people die from flu-related complications.
The best way to protect against the flu is to be vaccinated every year.
The flu season is unpredictable, but often occurs in the U.S. from October to May, and it usually peaks sometime between December and February.
Flu spreads through the air when people cough or sneeze and people nearby inhale the virus. The flu virus can also be spread when a person wipes their eyes or puts their hands in their mouth after touching a surface that has flu virus on it. You should avoid sharing eating and drinking utensils with friends as well as items like eye and lip makeup. To help protect yourself, you should wash your hands frequently during flu season; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and cover your cough and sneezes. If catch the flu, you should stay home from school or work or at least 24 hours after the fever (100º F/37.8º C or higher) is gone.
Even teens can be at high risk for complications to flu. As a teen you may be at high-risk for flu complications if you have:
Flu can come on very quickly. Most teens will recover in a few days to less than 2 weeks, although the fatigue (tiredness) and a cough can last for several weeks. Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:
Questioning whether you have flu or just a cold? Flu usually comes on suddenly and has more severe symptoms than a cold. Flu can result in serious complications and your healthcare provider may prescribe antivirals. Learn more about how to detect and treat flu.
An annual flu vaccine is the best defense against getting the flu. The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age receive an annual influenza (flu) vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your area. It takes (Please note that research indicates that those with egg allergy are not at higher risk of allergic reactions from flu vaccines and are recommended to receive an annual vaccination.)
The flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that researchers predict will be most common during the season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one or two influenza B viruses (depending on whether you receive a trivalent or quadrivalent flu vaccine).
For the 2017-2018 season, CDC recommends use of injectable/inactivated flu vaccines (IIV) or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) was found to be ineffective against strains in recent years and be used during the 2017-18 season. Read more updates on the current vaccine season.
Remember, we are all in this together. While the exact effectiveness of the flu vaccine is hard to predict each season, we can seriously reduce our chances of getting sick, hospitalized and dying by getting vaccinated every year. And, by vaccinating ourselves and our loved ones, we can help protect those who are at highest risk of flu complications
Visit your healthcare provider or pharmacist to get yourself and your family members the flu vaccine as soon as its available in your area. To find a location near you where you can get vaccinated, visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder.