Flu FAQs

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Flu season typically starts in the fall. Although it's not flu season now, we've put together some frequently asked questions about the flu and the flu vaccine. Please check back regularly for more information!

For a list of our flu shot clinics, follow this link.


I’m healthy. So do I really need a flu vaccine?
Influenza (flu) is a contagious disease that affects the lungs and can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia. Even healthy people who get the flu can be sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of time. They can even be hospitalized. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Some people have a greater risk of serious complications from the flu, and getting a yearly flu vaccine is especially important for them. This includes pregnant women, young children and older people. It also includes people with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

For a complete list of who needs the flu shot, follow this link: www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm

Is the flu vaccine safe?
Yes. The flu vaccine is safe. Flu vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people for more than 50 years and have a very good safety record. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for flu vaccines.

Talk with your health-care provider or pharmacist about which flu vaccine is recommended for you.

When should I see a doctor?
Typical flu symptoms usually do not require medical attention. But if you are a healthy adult and are not at risk for complications, you should contact your doctor if you have unexplained fever and trouble breathing, or if your symptoms are getting worse.

People with some conditions are at high risk for complications if they get the flu. See a list of who is at higher risk here: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm.

If you are at risk for severe influenza or complications of influenza, you should contact your doctor if you:

  • develop symptoms of the flu, including fever and either a cough or sore throat—OR—
  • have had close contact with someone who is definitely known to have influenza.

Note: Call your doctor rather than visit. Unless you need urgent medical care, please call rather than visit your doctor’s office, clinic or hospital. Your health care provider will determine over the phone whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If I have the flu, how long must I stay home?
If you are sick, you should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has passed (without the use of fever-reducing medicine). You should avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from infecting others. Some people are at risk of serious complications from the flu.

How long does a flu vaccine work?
The flu vaccine will protect you for one flu season.

How is the flu spread from one person to another?
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when a sick person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can enter the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person also might get the flu by touching a surface or object (a door knob, countertop, shopping cart, etc.) that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

People with flu can infect others beginning one day before symptoms start and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. Although it is possible to pass the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, most flu cases result from a person who has symptoms passing the virus to another person. Children, especially younger children, might be contagious for longer periods. Learn more here: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm.

How can I avoid getting the flu?

  • The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand lotion.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

How can I avoid spreading the flu?

  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.

For the latest information about the flu, visit the CDC’s flu web pages: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm.

More links:

This message was created using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) websites.

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