Flu/Pneumonia Q & A


How to protect yourself and your loved ones against the Flu

What is the flu?
Influenza or the flu is a very contagious disease of the respiratory (breathing) system. The flu is easily passed from one person to another by coughing and sneezing.    It is usually very unpleasant, but for most people symptoms generally get better after 7–10 days.

The flu usually starts very suddenly with:

  • fever (from 102° – 104°) lasting 3 – 4 days
  • headache
  • severe muscle aches
  • general weakness/extreme fatigue

These symptoms are accompanied by:

  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose

What to do if you have the flu:

  • Rest in bed
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Take non-aspirin pain relievers such as acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol®) or ibuprofen
    (e.g. Advil®, Motrin®, etc.). Never give children or teens with flu symptoms aspirin
    as they can develop a serious disease called Reye syndrome.
  • Stay home and avoid public activities until your symptoms are resolved (usually 5-7 days)
  • Talk with your health care provider if you are considering prescription drugs as they can have serious side effects in some people
  • For extreme cases, visit your health care provider or the emergency department as soon as possible

Note: If you are at high risk for complications from the flu you should consult your health care provider when your flu symptoms begin. Your doctor may recommend certain antiviral drugs to treat the flu.

When should you see a health care provider?

You should see a health care provider or go to an emergency room immediately if you have any of the symptoms below:

  • Flu symptoms that are strong or that do not go away after 7-10 days
  • Breathing that is fast, difficult or painful
  • Bluish skin
  • Cough with yellow mucous
  • Getting sick again with fever and/or a worse cough after getting better.
  • Not drinking enough fluids

Parents should seek medical attention for infants and children that are:

  • Not waking up; not interacting with others
  • So irritable they do not want to be held

Q: Can I get the flu from the shot?
A: No. The vaccine used in the flu shot is a killed virus which cannot give you the flu.

Q: Are there any side effects?
Yes, in some people, but these are usually minor: soreness and swelling at the spot where the shot was given.

Q: Even if I get the shot, can I still get the flu?
Yes. You may not be fully protected if you have recently been exposed to the flu.

Q: When should I get my flu shot?
The best time is October or November, but you can still get vaccinated in December and later.  Flu Season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

Q: What is the nasal vaccine?
FluMist (sometimes called LAIV for "Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine") is made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu.  LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 5 years to 49 years who are not pregnant.

Q: Can the flu vaccine protect me against the Avian or bird virus?
A: No, it cannot protect you against Avian flu.

Q: How about children?
A: For children 6 to 23 months, flu shots are recommended.    Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than 6 months should also receive flu vaccine.

Q: What if I am pregnant?
A: Women who will be pregnant during flu season should receive flu vaccine.  Most community flu clinics will immunize pregnant women.    Call the specific clinic sponsor to get more information.

And...while you're at it, get a pneumonia shot at the same time if you are 65 or older, or have chronic heart, lung or liver problems, certain types of cancer, a weakened immune system, or cochlear implants.

How often?
Most people only need one pneumonia shot in their lifetime.

How safe?
Less than 1 in 100 people have mild side effects such as fever or rash from the pneumonia shot.

If you are covered by Medicare Part B, your flu and/or pneumonia shots will be free at participating clinics. If you do not have Medicare, most public health clinics will charge for your flu and pneumonia vaccine.    You can ask for a receipt to submit to your insurance company.

How can I find a flu shot?
The American Lung Association (ALA) in partnership with Maxim Health Systems has developed an electronic influenza vaccine clinic locator.    To use the locator, go to www.flucliniclocator.org enter a zip code and a date (or dates) and receive information about clinics scheduled in your area.

In Massachusetts you can also find a listing of public flu clinics at http://flu.masspro.org or call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800 or toll-free at 888-658-2850.

In Connecticut you can call the Connecticut American Lung Association flu hotline at 1 888 NO TO FLU or 1-888-668-6358 or visit www.alact.org.

You can also contact your primary care provider, local health department or VNA or visit Maxim Health Systems website www.findaflushot.com

What are other steps that can be taken to prevent the flu?
There are other good health habits that can help prevent the flu. These are:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
    Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Also, antiviral medication may be used to prevent the flu. Contact your primary medical provider for more information about antiviral medications.

For further information, visit the CDC Flu website at www.cdc.gov/flu

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