Why should I get the flu shot?

According to the CDC, getting the flu shot not only can keep you from getting sick, can help reduce any flu-like symptoms, and can also protect people around you from getting the flu.

You should receive the flu shot before the end of October if possible, but you can still get the flu shot for ample protection through January. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work fully.

In the News

WBRC: How to disinfect your home after the flu 

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CNN: How to spot flu symptoms

Lessen the misery

Once you have the flu, what can make you feel better? Give it time, says UAB's Starr Steinhilber, M.D. Viruses will run their course, and there's very little you can do to speed them up, she said, but there are things that can make you feel better in the mean time:

  1. Don't underestimate the power of ibuprofen/acetaminophen. For older children/adults, it can make a world of difference in relieving symptoms.
  2. Rest.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids.
  4. Take an antiviral medicine if prescribed by your doctor.
  5. A humidifier, steam from a hot shower or saline spray will help with sinuses temporarily and do not have many side-effects. The more sinuses drain, the less likely you'll get a sinus or ear infection.
  6. Lozenges or anything to suck on will help the throat feel better. Your throat hurts because of sinus drainage, and keeping it moist helps reduce that pain.

Avoid spreading it

The flu is all around us in fall and winter. How can you avoid it? Flu germs may be passed onto someone else before symptoms appear. If you get it how can you avoid infecting others? Everyone needs to do their part in the community. UAB Nurse Practitioner Tedra Smith, DNP, identifies several things you can do to protect yourself and others:

  1. Get the flu vaccine early.
  2. Keep your distance: Stay away from people who are ill. If you are ill, stay home.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  4. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer when it's not available.
  5. Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose and mouth).
  6. Clean surfaces with germ killers at home and in the office.
  7. Don't reuse tissues; blow and throw away.

Get medical help

If you are experiencing flu symptoms, act quickly to protect yourself. Depending on your health, a doctor may recommend antiviral flu drugs, which if taken early may shorten its course. People who have chronic conditions, those age 65 and older and women who are pregnant should seek treatment sooner than an otherwise healthy person to avoid common complications such as pneumonia. Here are some options:

  1. Call your primary care physician.
  2. Use UAB's patient portal to message your provider if you are a patient here.
  3. Use UAB eMedicine to get an online diagnosis and treatment or referral. The cost is $25 ($10 for employees and their dependents on a UAB health plan).
  4. Visit UAB Medicine Urgent Care at 125 20th Street South, Suite 103. It's open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

FAQs about the FLU

Q: What are the most common symptoms of the flu?

A: The most common symptoms of the flu are fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, stuffy or runny nose, and sore throat, and symptoms typically last a week.

A wide range of complications can be caused by influenza virus infection of the upper and lower respiratory tracts, including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.

Q: Do I have the common cold or the flu?

A: Colds are typically around your nose and face; you have a sore throat, and symptoms are more gradual in onset. You may have a low-grade fever, but not a high fever.

The flu appears very suddenly. You will have a fever, body aches, sore throat, cough, and then you can have other symptoms as well, such as shortness of breath. You can feel dehydrated, meaning you may be dizzy, and you may be a little bit confused.

Q: Who should get a flu shot? Who is at risk?

A: Everyone — the flu vaccine can offer some protection against the virus.

The CDC recommends all people ages 6 months and older — including pregnant women — receive an annual flu vaccination, especially people at high risk for flu-related complications including adults older than 65 and people with chronic medical conditions.

Q: When should I get the flu shot?

A: You should receive the flu shot before the end of October if possible, but you can still get the flu shot for ample protection through January. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work fully.

Q: Can I get the flu from a flu shot?

A: No. The flu vaccine is a killed virus, meaning it will not cause sickness. You may experience mild side-effects after receiving the shot, such as a sore arm or a low-grade fever, but these symptoms go away within a few days.

Q: Shot or nasal spray — which is most effective?

A: The CDC is recommending for the 2018 Influenza season that a person gets either the flu mist or flu shot, as both are effective means of protection.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children receive a traditional shot instead of flu mist for optimal protection.

Q: How long is someone with the flu contagious?

A: Flu germs may be passed onto someone else before symptoms appear. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.

Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time. The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin is about one to four days.

Q: Where can I get the flu shot?

A: Flu shots are available at local pharmacies and clinics across the country; use the Vaccine Finder to find a source convenient for you. Flu shots are provided free to UAB employees, and existing UAB Medicine patients can receive free flu shots with no appointment necessary at several locations on campus.

Q: Should I go to the emergency room if I have the flu?

A: If you have minor flu or flu-like symptoms, you can call your primary care physician or message them through myUAB Medicine Patient Portal to get help or walk in to UAB Medicine Urgent Care. With UAB eMedicine online can help you get the care you need from the comfort of home.

If your flu-like symptoms are severe, or if a person in a vulnerable population – under age 5 or age 65 years and older – is tremendously ill, it may be appropriate to seek medical attention in the hospital’s emergency department, but is still recommended to connect with a primary care physician first who can help determine next steps.

en español

Si contrae la gripe, el tratamiento más efectivo es tratar los síntomas:
1. Descanse
2. Tome muchos líquidos
3. Si usted ve a su médico entre 72 horas de sospechar que usted tiene la gripe, la medicación antiviral puede ser útil para minimizar sus síntomas.
4. Usa un humidificador, el vapor de una ducha caliente o un aerosol salino ayudará con lose senos temporalmente.
5. Los medicamentos de venta libre pueden ser útiles para disminuir los síntomas. Consulte al farmacéutico para obtener recomendaciones basadas en su estado de salud y edad.

Evite propagarlo:
1. Vacúnese contra la gripe o la influenza
2. Manténgase alejado de personas que estén enfermos y quédese en la casa descansando si está enfermo.
3. Cubra su boca y nariz cuando tosa o estornude.
4. Lávase las manos con jabón y agua o use un desinfectante de manos. 5. Evite tocar tu cara.
6. Limpie su nariz o boca y tire la servilleta en la basura después de cada uso.

Obtener ayuda médica:
1. Llame a su médico.
2. Utilice UAB eMedicine (link: https://uabmedicine.zipnosis.com/) para obtener un diagnóstico y tratamiento en línea o una referencia.
3. Centro de Urgenica de UAB (link: https://www.uabmedicine.org/locations/uab-medicine-urgent-care) 125 20th Street South, Suite 103, Birmingham, AL, 35233


Flu facts graphic