Flu season has arrived, but there is still time to receive a flu vaccine. Studies show that those who receive the vaccine and become infected with the flu can experience reduced severity and duration of illness.

Anyone with web access can book a flu vaccination through the patient portal, or contact HUHS at 617-495-5711 to make an appointment.

What is influenza?
Influenza (often called flu) is a contagious illness caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms include fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, sore throat, and general weakness. The onset of these symptoms may be sudden. These symptoms can range from mild to severe.

How is flu spread?
The viruses that cause flu live in the nose and throat and are sprayed into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or speaks. People nearby can then breathe in the virus. Flu symptoms usually start one to three days after a person inhales the virus, but it can be longer. Most people spread the flu virus from one day before their symptoms begin until about a week afterward.

Is flu dangerous?
It can be, particularly for the very young, the very old, and for those with underlying medical conditions. Most people have mild illness lasting a few days; however, some may develop pneumonia or other serious complications. Every year, the flu causes thousands of hospital admissions in the United States.

Who should get a flu vaccine?
A flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. It is recommended that everyone six months of age and older get a flu vaccine. A person needs to get a flu vaccine every year to be protected. It is not true that the flu vaccine can give you the flu, but it does take two weeks after getting vaccinated to be fully protected. Be sure to take other precautions against getting the flu during this time.

How can I prevent the spread of the flu?
There are many ways you can help prevent the spread of germs.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze. If you do not have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your upper sleeve.
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Stay home if you are sick, and consult your health care clinician.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, if possible.

What should I do if I get the flu?
Generally, the flu lasts three to seven days. Drink plenty of fluids and get a lot of rest. Medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) can be used to help relieve a fever. Be sure to follow package directions for the age of the person taking the medicine. Do not give aspirin to children due to the risk of Reyes syndrome, a rare but serious illness. Decongestants may help relieve a stuffy nose or sinus pressure in adults and older children. Talk to your health care clinician if symptoms seem severe or ongoing.

Are there any medications that I can take?
Antiviral medicines prescribed by a health care clinician can be used to treat influenza, but are most often recommended for persons at high risk of developing complications from the flu. To be most effective, these medicines should be started within 48 hours of symptom onset. These drugs can reduce the symptoms of the flu and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days.

Visit the CDC website for more information.

Source: Boston Public Health Commission