It’s not “just” the flu! Everyone is at risk from influenza (flu) – even healthy children and adults. Flu can be serious and lead to secondary complications such as pneumonia and sepsis. Protect yourself and your loved ones this season by knowing the facts.
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Top 10 Seasonal Flu Facts
- Based on significant flu activity in the Southern Hemisphere, this flu season could be severe. In the U.S., flu can start as early as October, peak between December and February, and extend through May!
- It’s not “just the flu”! On average every year in the U.S., flu results in millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths. Aside from COVID-19, flu is the deadliest vaccine-preventable disease in the U.S.
- Everyone is at risk from flu, but young children, pregnant people, older adults, and people with chronic medical conditions are especially vulnerable. Read our personal stories.
- Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months and older, with rare exception. Flu vaccines have been updated this season to help protect against four circulating strains of flu.
- Vaccination is the best defense we have against flu-related illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting vaccinated helps protect YOU, your loved ones, and your community!
- There is a NEW preferential flu vaccine recommendation for people aged 65 years and older. Older adults should receive a high-dose, adjuvanted, or recombinant flu vaccine.
- A flu vaccine can’t make you sick! Check out our FAQs at the bottom of this page.
- Flu vaccines can be given at the same time as other vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. And an important note: COVID vaccines DO NOT protect you against flu!
- It’s recommended that you get a flu vaccine by the end of October and BEFORE flu starts spreading in your community, although vaccination later in the season can still be beneficial.
- Flu vaccination can be convenient and free! They are available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, clinics, local health departments, schools, and grocery stores. Check out to find a clinic near you and if costs are a concern, check out our Paying for Vaccines tool.
Flu Symptoms & Diagnosis
Common flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and can include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (note that not everyone with flu will have a fever)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Vomiting and diarrhea may be common in children
Especially with flu and COVID circulating together – along with other respiratory diseases – it’s important to be properly diagnosed to determine appropriate treatment. There are a number of tests available to determine if you have the flu. Your healthcare provider may test you for flu or diagnose you based on your symptoms.
Wondering if your symptoms are flu, COVID-19, seasonal allergies, strep throat, or a common cold? Check out this comparison chart. Wondering when to seek medical attention for flu? Check out these emergency warning signs of flu in children and adults.
If you do get sick with flu, antiviral drugs – which are prescription medications – are a treatment option. These medications are most effective if taken early – within 48 hours (2 days) of getting sick. Antivirals can lessen your flu symptoms, shorten duration of illness, and help prevent severe flu illness and related complications. Antivirals are NOT a substitute for annual flu vaccination.
Prompt treatment is recommended for people who have flu or suspected flu and who are at higher risk of serious flu complications, including those 65 years and older, young children, pregnant individuals, and people with chronic health conditions. The CDC recommends that healthcare providers treat patients with suspected or confirmed flu as soon as possible, specifically high-risk patients and those who are hospitalized and/or experiencing severe illness.
Flu in Higher Risk Groups
Flu can be very serious for children, especially those younger than 5 years old. Every year in the U.S.:
- Flu-related hospitalizations for young children range from 7,000 – 26,000
- Over 100 children under 18 years old lose their lives to flu
Children age 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine every year. Flu vaccines can be lifesaving in children. Some children age 6 months through 8 years need 2 doses of flu vaccine, spaced at least 4 weeks apart. These children include those who have never received a flu vaccine or have previously only received one dose of vaccine.
Flu can cause severe illness in pregnant people due to changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy. Flu can also be dangerous for babies before and following birth when they’re too young to be vaccinated themselves. Pregnant people can receive a flu shot during any trimester of their pregnancy but should not receive the live attenuated flu vaccine (also known as the nasal spray vaccine). Flu vaccination is safe for pregnant people and postpartum women, even if they are breastfeeding.
Some benefits of flu vaccination in pregnant people are:
- Reduces a pregnant person’s risk of flu-related illness by 50% and flu-related hospitalization by 40%
- Reduces an infant’s risk of flu-related illness by 70% and flu-related hospitalization by 81%
People 65 years and older account for 50 – 70% of flu-related hospitalizations and 70 – 85% of flu-related deaths. Older adults (seniors) are at increased risk of severe flu illness and flu-related complications due to age-related changes in their immune defenses. New this flu season, there is a preferential recommendation for older adults to receive a high-dose, adjuvanted, or recombinant flu vaccine because these types of flu vaccines may offer enhanced protection. People 65 years and older should also be up to date with pneumococcal vaccination.
Some benefits of flu vaccination in older adults are:
- Reduces the risk of flu-related hospitalization by an average of 40%
- Reduces the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit by 82%
People with Chronic Medical Conditions
People living with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and chronic kidney disease are at an increased risk of severe flu-related outcomes like hospitalization and death. During recent flu seasons, 90% of people hospitalized with flu had at least one underlying medical condition.
Some benefits of flu vaccination in people with chronic conditions are:
- Results in lower rates of cardiac events among people with heart disease
- Reduces the risk of flu-related hospitalizations in people with diabetes by 79%
- Reduces the risk of flu-related illness, hospitalization, and death in people with chronic lung disease
Stay Healthy This Flu Season
In addition to getting your recommended routine immunizations, including a yearly flu vaccine and COVID vaccines, there are some other ways you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from dangerous infectious diseases:
- Stay home if you’re sick to avoid infecting others.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue to avoid spreading germs onto your hands and nearby surfaces.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home, office, and school.
- Follow current guidance on use of masks.
- Keep these items on hand when venturing outside of your home: a face mask, tissues, and a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Common Questions About Flu Vaccines
Can a flu vaccine give me the flu?
Why do some people not feel well or feel like they have flu symptoms after getting a flu vaccine?
Are flu vaccines safe?
Is the flu dangerous for pregnant people?
Which health conditions put me at higher risk of serious flu illness and flu-related complications?
Should I get a flu shot if I have cancer or am a cancer survivor?
Does my age or race/ethnicity put me at high risk for flu complications?
Can we predict the potential severity of a current flu season based on previous flu seasons?
Are flu vaccines effective?
Are there different types of seasonal flu vaccines?
Is flu really more serious than the common cold?
Can I still get a flu vaccine if I have an egg allergy?