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Influenza

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Prevention and Treatment

Prevention

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months old and older get a flu shot each season. In particular, people who are at high risk of complications from the flu should receive the vaccine. These include young children, the elderly, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and liver or kidney disorders. See the CDC page on Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine to learn more.
  • You can also take actions to minimize spread of the flu. Thorough and frequent hand-washing, cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces, coughing and sneezing into tissues, and, when ill, staying home and limiting contact with other people are all important actions that help prevent influenza from spreading.

Treatment

Many people who do get influenza are only moderately ill and do not require medical treatment. They can receive supportive care that includes drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough bed rest, and taking over-the-counter pain- and fever-reducing medications to relieve symptoms until the infection resolves.

Antiviral medications are available, however, to treat those who have influenza. They should be started as soon as possible after the emergence of symptoms. When administered within the first 48 hours of the start of symptoms, they can lessen the severity and duration of the illness.

The CDC recommends treatment for those with confirmed or suspected influenza who have severe, complicated, or progressive illness or who are hospitalized, and for those at risk of severe complications. People at high risk may be treated before they become ill (antiviral chemoprophylaxis) if they have been in close contact with someone who has influenza.

Those who develop secondary complications, such as bacterial pneumonia, will also require antibiotics.

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