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Health Education Blog

Frequently Asked Questions About the Flu and the Flu Vaccine

Posted by Staff on December 19, 2016

FAQEvery year there are questions about the flu. Does my kid have it? Will I get the flu? How can we prevent getting the flu? And it seems there are even more questions about the flu vaccine and whether it’s safe or not. Should I give it to my kids? Should seniors take it? What if I’m pregnant? Why should I vaccinate anyway?

Every year people make decisions on whether or not to get vaccinated based on information that isn’t really true. So what are the facts? How do I know if what I’m hearing about the flu vaccine is really true or not?

Quick Facts about the Flu


The stomach flu is another type of flu.


The flu does not usually infect the stomach or intestines.



I can show symptoms of the flu within just a few hours of exposure.


Flu symptoms take an average of 2 days to develop.



Only seniors and kids should get vaccinated.


Everyone over 6 months old should get vaccinated.


Check out more common flu myths debunked here at LiveScience.com.


So what is the flu?

The flu is a respiratory disease

It’s a virus that infects the respiratory system—the set of organs that allows you to breathe, such as your nose, your throat, and your lungs—which is why it’s called a respiratory illness. That’s why when you have the flu you often have a sore throat, runny nose, and congestion. The flu (or influenza, as it’s officially called) is a virus that comes in many strains. Each one of these viral types is independent from other types.

The seasonal strands of influenza change constantly which is why people catch the flu multiple times. That is also why you can get sick even if you got vaccinated last year. Because the influenza virus changes and mutates so often, scientists update the vaccine every year to protect us from the newest known strains.

By now you may be wondering, what’s the difference between the cold and the flu?

Imagine you have a few common cold symptoms like a cough and a sore throat. But along with that you’re intensely weak and extremely exhausted. On top of all that, you also have a high fever, a crushing headache, severe aches and pains throughout your whole body. Well, if you have all these symptoms, you might have the flu.

Generally, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense than with a cold. Colds are usually milder than the flu. Both the common cold and seasonal flu are contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse.

Feel like you might be coming down with something, but not sure if it’s the flu or not?

Use this chart from webmd.com to see if your symptoms are more like a cold or flu. Always be sure to check with your doctor if you seriously suspect you have the flu.






High (100-1002F) for 3-4 days




General aches and pains


Usual, often severe

Fatigue, weakness


Intense for 2-3 weeks

Extreme exhaustion


Usual, starts early

Stuffy nose






Sore throat




Mild to moderate

Common, can become severe


Sinus congestion or earache

Bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.


You may need to go to the walk-in clinic or hospital.



Wash your hands well and avoid sick people.

Flu vaccine once a year.


Wash your hands well and avoid sick people.


Antiviral drugs:

Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza)



Over-the-counter products to ease symptoms

Over-the-counter products to ease symptoms.


Prescription treatment:

Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or Zanamivir (Relenza) within 24-48 hours after symptoms start


Peramivir (Rapivab) for some cases; taken by IV


When do flu symptoms show up?

When you become infected with the flu virus it takes 1-4 days before you show flu symptoms. Sometimes it can even take up to 7 days to show symptoms. You usually become contagious the day before you have any symptoms, so you can spread the flu virus to others even before you know you’re sick.

Who should get vaccinated?

Because it could take up to 7 days for symptoms to appear, it’s recommended everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. The vaccine is even safe for pregnant women who are considered an at-risk population.

Whether you’re young or old or in between, there are two main reasons you should get the flu vaccine: either your own immune system is weakened and you could get really sick; or you could give the flu to someone else and they could get really sick. The flu can be very dangerous to some people, so the best thing you can do is to get vaccinated.

Who is at higher risk for catching the flu?

Most people who get the seasonal flu will have only mild symptoms. They won’t need medical care or prescription drugs, and they will recover in less than two weeks. So if this is true, why would anyone need to get vaccinated? Here’s why: Some people are at higher risk to get the flu, and when they do, they are more likely to have complications. That’s a medical way of saying when they get the flu, it could be much more serious than the average person. When they do get the flu, it has a greater chance of causing other medical problems to get worse.

This is a really good reason for people who are in higher-risk groups to get vaccinated. A good example is if a person has asthma. They could have more asthma attacks while they have the flu. Another example is if a person has diabetes. The flu could trigger that problem and even make it worse.

Here’s some examples of people who are at higher risk if they get the flu:

boy in bed with thermometer - ThinkstockPhotos-528290460.jpg

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2
  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People on chronic steroids
  • People with




Lung disease

Heart disease

Blood disorders

Endocrine disorders

Kidney disorders

Liver disorders



But what if I’m not in the high-risk group?

You should still get vaccinated! Let’s think it through – If you get sick, it may not be a big deal and it will be over in less than two weeks. But what about people you come in contact with every day, especially since you’re not very sick, so you don’t stay home in bed? What if you give the flu to some of the people around you? What if some of them actually get sick? What if some of them are in a high-risk group?

Catching the flu can have a domino effect to those around you. That could be bad especially for people in a high-risk group that may end up needing to go to the hospital. This is a good reason why everyone should get vaccinated.

What about the safety of the flu vaccine?

Well the simple answer is, it’s very safe. Researchers are always monitoring for potential problems and making any adjustments as needed. There have been some concerns about vaccines over the years, but the experts have taken those into consideration.

One example was a concern based on a single study that a preservative used in the flu vaccine could cause autism in children. That preservative was called Thimerosal. As a result of the concern, Thimerosal was removed from any new vaccine for children and pregnant women that the FDA approved, starting in 2001. Though they took this precaution, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the cause of autism isn’t linked to a single exposure of Thimerosal.

On a final note, both the nasal and shot versions of flu vaccine are safe. The viruses in flu shots are dead, and a dead virus can’t infect you. You can rest assured that when you get a flu shot it is safe and won’t cause you to get the flu. However, in the nasal spray vaccine, viruses are live but weakened. Some people may show signs of a low-grade infection, which is your body working to build immunity against the flu. If this is concerning to you, know that you can always request the flu shot instead of the live nasal spray.

Why Everyone Should get Vaccinated

When we get vaccinated, we not only protect ourselves but all the people around us who may not be able to fight the flu so easily. Do yourself and everyone around you a huge favor: Get vaccinated for the flu this year! It’s easy. It’s safe. And it can save you and others in our community from getting really sick this flu season.

Where Can I get Vaccinated?

At Orchard Hospital, we want you want to have the best information available for keeping you and your family safe. Please consider getting vaccinated this year, for you, your friends and family, and our community! Remember to ask your doctor or your local pharmacist when you can get your vaccination, so you can stay healthy.

Also, did you know that Orchard Hospital has a walk-in clinic? We do! Visit us at our Medical Specialty CenterYour Everyday Health Care Clinicif you think you may be coming down with the flu. We offer flu immunizations as well as screening, diagnosis, and treatment for the flu. We will take care of you quickly and efficiently. Appointments are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. Open 7 days a week. It’s our goal to have fast and friendly care while delivering quality health care.

get your flu shot

Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide our community with superior healthcare. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.


Topics: Cold and Flu

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