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Flu Q&A with Dr. Sidebottom

Important information about seasonal influenza (flu)

Dr. Sidebottom (thumbnail)Infectious Disease Specialist David G. Sidebottom, MD, shares important information to help you and your family stay healthy this flu season.

What is the flu?

Influenza (the "flu" for short) is a respiratory infection. But unlike other viral syndromes such as the common cold, its symptoms are more severe. So in addition to a stuffy nose, cough and sore throat, with the flu come muscle and joint aches, high fever, chills and fatigue. When you have the flu, you really know it.

What's the best advice for preventing the flu?

First, wash your hands - often. Practice prudent cough etiquette [cough or sneeze into a tissue, then throw it away]. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Get sufficient rest and maintain a healthy diet. Stay home from work or school if you are sick. Avoid crowds whenever possible during flu season. And get vaccinated against the seasonal flu.

Are vaccines really effective?

For seasonal flu, yes. But flu viruses change from year to year - so a vaccine made against flu viruses circulating last year may not protect against newer viruses, which is why you should get a flu shot every year.

When should I get these flu shots?

As soon as the vaccines are available. The seasonal flu vaccine is available starting in September. Check with your healthcare provider or local health department for more information.

Do you get a flu shot?

Yes, I've gotten a flu shot every year for the past 38 years.

Who should get a flu shot?

Certain people are at high risk of serious complications from the flu and should be vaccinated. For seasonal flu, this includes:

  • People 65 years and older
  • Children younger than 5
  • Pregnant women
  • People of any age with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and asthma 

The groups recommended to receive the seasonal flu vaccine include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
  • All people from age 6 months through 24 years
  • People aged 25-64 who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from the flu
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