Our Flu Recommendations

1. Take preventative actions to reduce the chances of your family getting or spreading the flu.

The single best way to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older, especially people at high risk for developing serious complications from flu, get vaccinated each season.

In addition to getting vaccinated, take – and encourage your child to take – everyday steps that can help prevent the spread of germs.

This includes:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Stay away from people who are sick. Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • If someone in the household is sick, try to keep the sick person in a separate room from others in the household if possible.
  • Keep surfaces like bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label. Throw tissues and other disposable items used by sick persons in your household in the trash.
  • These everyday steps are a good way to reduce your chances of getting all sorts of illnesses, but a yearly flu vaccine is always the best way to specifically prevent the flu.

2. Vaccinate against the flu according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guidelines.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. Keep in mind that vaccination is especially important for certain people who are high risk or who are in close contact with high risk persons. Children at greatest risk of serious flu-related complications include the following:

  1. Children younger than 6 months old. These children are too young to be vaccinated. The best way to protect them is to make sure people around them are vaccinated.
  2. Children aged 6 months up to their 5th birthday. It is estimated that each year in the United States, there are more than 20,000 children younger than 5 years old who are hospitalized due to flu. Even children in this age group who are otherwise healthy are at risk simply because of their age. In addition, children 2 years of age up to their 5th birthday are more likely than healthy older children to be taken to a doctor, an urgent care center, or the emergency room because of flu. To protect their health, all children 6 months and older should be vaccinated against the flu each year. Vaccinating young children, their families, and other caregivers can also help protect them from getting sick.
  3. American Indian and Alaskan Native children. These children are more likely to have severe flu illness that results in hospitalization or death.
  4. Children aged 6 months through 18 years with chronic health problems

3. Know which health problems increase the risk of developing flu-related complications.

Children with any of the following conditions should receive the flu vaccine as they are at greater risk for serious flu-related complications:

  • Asthma
  • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids), and
  • Children who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy

4. Know the common symptoms of the flu.

Symptoms of seasonal flu can vary from person to person, but usually include:

  • Fever (temperature higher than 100ºF or 37.8ºC)
  • Headache and muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Cough and sore throat may also be present
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

People with the flu usually have a fever for two to five days. This is different than fever caused by other upper respiratory viruses, which usually resolve after 24 to 48 hours.

Most people with the flu have fever and muscle aches, and some people also have cold-like symptoms (runny nose, sore throat). Flu symptoms usually improve over two to five days, although the illness may last for a week or more. Weakness and fatigue may persist for several weeks.

Flu complications — Complications of influenza occur in some people; pneumonia is the most common complication. It is more likely to occur in young children and those with other illnesses such as diabetes or conditions affecting the heart or lungs. Pneumonia is also more common in people with weakened immune systems, such as those who have had a transplant. Additional complications include dehydration, ear or sinus infection, bronchitis or worsening of chronic health problems such as diabetes or asthma.

5. Know what to do if you or your child gets sick with flu-like symptoms.

Treat symptoms — Treating the symptoms of influenza can help you to feel better, but will not make the flu go away faster.

  • Rest until the flu is fully resolved, especially if the illness has been severe
  • Fluids — Drink enough fluids so that you do not become dehydrated. One way to judge if you are drinking enough is to look at the color of your urine. Normally, urine should be light yellow to nearly colorless. If you are drinking enough, you should pass urine every three to five hours.
  • Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol® and other brands) can relieve fever, headache, and muscle aches. Aspirin, and medicines that include aspirin (eg, bismuth subsalicylate; PeptoBismol), are not recommended for children under 18 because aspirin can lead to a serious disease called Reye syndrome.
  • Cough medicines are not usually helpful; cough usually resolves without treatment. We do not recommend cough or cold medicine for children under age six years.

6. Know how long to stay home if you or your child gets a flu-like illness.

The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®. You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.

7. Know the warning signs of a severe flu infection.

Emergency warning signs of a severe flu infection in children include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

  • Is not able to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

8. Know who may benefit from taking Tamiflu, an anti-flu medication.

It’s very important that antiviral drugs are used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.