Red Oak Internal Medicine

By Kassandra Mueller, MPAS, PA-CPhoto of Kassandra Mueller. Author of article

What is influenza and how do we prevent it?


As the fall season is quickly approaching, it is important we all start thinking about getting our yearly influenza vaccine.

Influenza is a serious illness with potential complications that can be detrimental to our health. Current CDC guidelines recommend that anyone older than 6 months old receive an annual vaccine. In order to make an educated decision about whether to receive an influenza vaccine or not, it is important to know how influenza is spread, the symptoms and potential serious complications.

Influenza is a virus that is spread by saliva droplets through sneezing and coughing. The virus is contagious one day prior to symptom development, up until 5-7 days after onset. The easiest and most important way to prevent spread of the virus is to get a yearly influenza vaccine, wash your hands frequently, and cover your cough.

How do you know if you have influenza? Symptoms of influenza include abrupt onset of high fever (less than 100.4F), headache, feeling tired or achy, congestion, sore throat and cough. A nasal swab may be ordered to detect the virus for diagnosis. Treatment of influenza includes a fever reducer such as Tylenol or ibuprofen, keeping well hydrated, and possibly a prescription anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu. If you suspect that you have influenza, you should see your doctor as soon as possible to ensure adequate treatment and prevention of complications.

The complications of influenza can be very serious. Those at highest risk for complications include adults over 65 years old, children, pregnant women, resident of nursing homes, and those with multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. Influenza weakens the body and makes it susceptible to bacterial illnesses such as a sinus or ear infection and pneumonia. Getting an influenza vaccination will help prevent getting influenza and any of these complications.

The most effective way of preventing influenza is to receive the vaccination. Research shows that yearly vaccination for influenza reduces mortality form influenza by as much as 41%. Receiving the vaccination can prevent you from getting influenza, its complications, and spreading the virus in the community.

(Hibbard, P.(July7,2017). Seasonal influenza vaccination in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/seasonal-influenza-vaccination-inadults.