Influenza, or "flu," is caused by a virus infecting the respiratory system, meaning your nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs. Flu is very contagious and spreads easily from one person to the next. Most people with healthy immune systems will get over the flu within two weeks. However, young children, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses are more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia.
Vaccination is your first, and most important, step to reducing your risk of flu and its complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people age six months and older get an annual flu vaccine. If the timing aligns, your flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster can be administered during the same visit. Combined flu and COVID-19 appointments are available at certain vaccine centers.
Everyday preventive actions can also help reduce the spread of flu. These include washing your hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and limiting contact when you or others are sick.
Flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Feeling feverish or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Vomiting or diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*Please note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Your doctor may diagnose the flu based on your symptoms, conduct a rapid test or request a laboratory test.
Prompt treatment is recommended for people at higher risk of flu complications. This includes young children, adults age 65 and older, pregnant people, and people with certain medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Learn more about who is high risk (CDC) >
When patients are high risk or very sick with the flu, prescription antiviral drugs may be used to lessen symptoms, shorten the time they are sick and reduce the risk for serious complications.
Flu Shot Locations
There are many convenient ways to get a flu vaccine, including your primary health care provider, your employer, your local health department, or a retail pharmacy in your community. If you are a patient receiving home care, call to ask if they are providing flu vaccines to clients.