Influenza, or the flu, can cause mild to severe illness and be very serious
for some people. Common signs of the flu include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle and body aches
How to prevent the flu
Help reduce your risk for getting the flu, as well as the cold and COVID-19,
and slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses:
- Get your flu shot.
- Wear a mask in public, especially when you can't maintain at least
6 feet of distance from others.
- Avoid being around people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often, or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover your cough and sneezes, and dispose of tissues in the trash.
- Clean frequently used surfaces and objects with disinfectant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to commonly asked questions about the flu are as follows. For more
information visit the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
What is influenza, or the flu?
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness
caused by viruses. These viruses infect the nose, throat and sometimes
lungs through tiny respiratory droplets made when people with the flu
cough, sneeze or talk. In some cases, a person might get the flu by touching
something that has the flu virus on it, and then touching their eyes,
nose or mouth. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and for some
people, can be very serious and life-threatening. The best way to prevent
the flu and keep you, your family and friends healthy is by getting a
flu shot every year.
What should I know about the flu this year?
While the impact of flu can vary year to year and place to place, it always
puts significant burden on the health of people in the U.S. The CDC estimates
that since 2010, the flu has resulted in between 9 million and 45 million
illnesses, 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths annually.
This year is different. It’s likely that cold, flu and COVID-19 all
will spread this fall and winter, making it more important than ever to
get a flu shot. It’s safe, effective and proven to reduce instances
and severity of the flu. By getting the flu shot, you’re helping
protect yourself and those around you.
Is it a cold, the flu or COVID-19?
While there are some overlapping symptoms of cold, flu and COVID-19, the
viruses, infections and illnesses are different. Because it will be difficult
to tell them apart, contact your provider to determine what care you may
need, including testing.
cold, you may feel pretty crummy, but the symptoms (e.g., cough, sore throat,
fatigue, etc.) are mild in comparison to viruses like the flu and COVID-19.
Rest and many over-the-counter medications can help relieve cold symptoms.
flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness,
with symptoms such as fever, cough and body aches. Most people with the
flu don’t need medical care or medication. However, the flu can
be very serious for some people and require medical attention. Contact
your doctor if your symptoms worsen, are prolonged, or if you’re at
high risk of flu-related complications. Testing may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a new virus. COVID-19
can have varying degrees of symptoms, from none to severe. Symptoms may
include fever or chills, severe cough, sore throat and the loss of taste
or smell. COVID-19 can cause medical complications, especially in
higher-risk groups. At this time, there are no medications or therapeutics to prevent or
treat COVID-19. If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or
are experiencing symptoms,
learn more about options for screening and receiving care.
Will the flu shot protect me against COVID-19?
No, the flu shot won’t protect you against COVID-19. While many medications
and therapeutics are in the works and under close study and review, at
this time there is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19. However, the flu shot
has many other benefits that help you and those around you stay healthy,
especially during a time when the cold, flu and COVID-19 are all likely
What are the benefits of the flu shot?
The flu shot is proven as safe and effective in helping to reduce flu-related
illness and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization
or death. Getting a flu shot helps to decrease your risk of getting sick
and the risk to those around you. And at a time when cold, flu and COVID-19
are all likely to spread in the U.S., reducing the number of flu cases
helps health care providers conserve limited resources for those who are
Who should get the flu shot?
Most people older than six months of age should get a flu shot annually.
It’s the best way to protect yourself and those around you from
the flu and mild-to-severe flu illness. It’s especially important
for those at high risk of developing serious flu complications, including
people 65 and older, women who are or will become pregnant, young children
and those who are immunosuppressed. Ask your doctor what flu prevention
options are best for you, based on your unique health needs.
When should I get the flu shot?
It’s recommended to get your flu shot by the end of October. The
flu season in the U.S. typically spikes in October and peaks by February.
Flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter, but can circulate
When should I see a doctor?
Because there are some overlapping symptoms of cold, flu and COVID-19,
it will be difficult to tell them apart. Contact your provider to determine
what care you may need, including testing. You may need to be seen by
a provider virtually or in-person, or get on prescription medication.
If you’re experiencing a health emergency, call 911 and go to the
nearest emergency department.
How is the flu treated?
Most people who get sick with the flu don’t need medical care or
medication. Getting extra rest, drinking plenty of fluids and trying over-the-counter
medications can help relieve flu symptoms. For some people, including
those who are at
for serious flu-related complications, prescription medications can help
lessen symptoms, shorten the duration of illness and prevent serious flu-related
health problems. Ask your doctor what treatment is best for you.