Frequently Asked Questions
What is the flu?
Loss of appetite
Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea (mostly in children)
Who gets the flu?
The flu affects everyone, even healthy adults. During 2009, there was an increase in adults with severe infections (ages 18 to 49) from the flu.
Children and adults with chronic health problems (cancer, diabetes, heart disorders, HIV/AIDS or lung disorders) are at a greater risk for more severe issues from an infection.
What is the best way to prevent flu?
The best way to protect your family is to get a flu vaccine. It gives you and your family about an 80 percent or better chance of preventing the flu.
There are two forms of flu vaccine: a shot and a nasal spray (a mist that is sprayed into the nose). Talk to your doctor about which vaccine is right for you and your family.
Other ways to prevent flu include practicing good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Disinfect high-traffic surfaces (door handles, tabletops).
Should I get tested for the flu?
Do not seek out an examination for your child at your doctor's office or a Children's ED or Urgent Care Center to get a 'flu' test. The 'rapid flu test' is unreliable - so unreliable that Children's Healthcare of Atlanta no longer performs this test and does not recommend its use. If you think your child has the flu, you can use the online assessment, call 404-785-0000 or see your doctor. Your doctor's judgment is the best method to determine treatment.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Side effects rarely happen after getting the flu vaccine.
The shot form of the flu vaccine contains a dead flu virus—this means you cannot get the flu from the shot form of the vaccine. Mild redness and irritation at the injection site are possible side effects of the shot form of the vaccine.
The nasal spray form of the flu vaccine contains weakened, live flu virus. Possible side effects of the nasal spray form of the vaccine may be similar to flu symptoms (runny nose, headache), although not as severe. A healthy person cannot get the flu from the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine.
Vaccines do not cause autism.
Some flu vaccines contain thimerosal, a preservative that keeps germs from getting into the vaccine. Experts have conducted many studies to prove there is no link between thimerosal and autism.
Who needs the flu vaccine?
For this year’s flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccine for everyone age 6 months and older. Remember, everyone in your family must get vaccinated to protect any children who are too young to get the vaccine.
If your child is younger than age 9 and has never received a flu vaccine, he will need two vaccine doses to be protected.
When should my family get vaccinated?
Get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. You need a new vaccine for this season even if you got a vaccine last year. Flu season can begin as early as October and can last until May.
The vaccine works best when given before flu season begins. It can take two weeks for your body to build up protection against the flu after getting the vaccine. Even if you cannot get the vaccine early in the season, it can still provide protection against the flu whenever you are vaccinated.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Vaccines are available through your healthcare provider, but you also can find flu vaccine clinics in local grocery and drug stores. Find a flu vaccine location near you.
What should I do if I get the flu?
Stay home. This reduces the spread of the flu to other family members, co-workers, students and your community. You will start to be contagious a day or two before you feel sick. You will continue to be contagious until the symptoms of the flu are gone. This can take up to one week for adults and two weeks for children. You may return to work or school once your fever is gone for at least 24 hours, without using fever-reducing medicine.
Antiviral medicines fight against the flu virus in your body and are different from antibiotics. While they can help reduce the length of the flu, they are not for everyone. Ideally, antiviral medications like Tamiflu should be given to patients who are at increased risk from flu.
Persons at higher risk are:
- Younger than 24 months old
- Very overweight
- 65 years or older
- Suffer from chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes or are immunosuppressed
If you or your child are at high risk, you will need to contact your primary care physician for a prescription to determine if antiviral treatments are the best course of action for you or your child. If prescribed, know that these medications work best if taken within 24 hours of the first sign of symptoms.
Where can I get more information?