The seasonal flu (influenza) can cause severe illness or complications. Certain groups of people have a higher risk of developing serious health conditions from the flu.
Flu is most common during the fall and winter months. Peak levels generally occur between late December and early March. There are many different strains of flu, and they tend to change each year.
You can avoid the seasonal flu by getting vaccinated every year.
Some people are more likely to get severely sick or have complications from seasonal flu. The following are high-risk groups:
People in these groups should call their health care provider if they have flu-like symptoms or have had recent close contact with someone with flu-like symptoms.
Flu symptoms usually start to show one to four days after exposure. Most people are ill for a few days.
Typical symptoms include fever, chills, aches, cough and sore throat. Intestinal symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea, are possible but less common. If you have a severe or worsening symptom, such as difficulty breathing, go immediately to a hospital emergency room.
Seasonal flu sometimes leads to serious complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization or death.
Most people recover from the flu on their own. You do not need to go to the hospital if you get the flu, but you should take the following steps to protect yourself and avoid infecting others:
There are several drugs that are used to prevent and treat seasonal flu. These medicines, which require a doctor’s prescription, are known as antivirals.
If you belong to a high-risk group and have flu-like symptoms or are in close contact with someone who has the flu, a health care provider may recommend that you take antiviral medicine as a precaution.