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Sep 8, 2023

How the Flu is Transmitted and Spreads

Flu season is typically considered to occur during the fall and winter of every year, with the height of the flu season running December to February. But the influenza virus can start to circulate earlier and last longer. To stay ahead of flu season and prevent catching the influenza virus as best you can, get a seasonal flu shot as soon as they are available. Flu shots usually become available around late August and September each year and are available throughout the flu season.

It takes about two weeks after getting vaccinated for your body to create enough antibodies to protect against the flu. Therefore, it’s best to get it before flu season starts. Influenza treatment is available if you do end up contracting the virus, but getting the flu shot in advance can help prevent days of fever, chills, nausea and other unpleasant symptoms.

How Do People Get the Flu?

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. While some people have mild to moderate symptoms that last one to two weeks, the flu can cause serious illness, including pneumonia. People at greater risk of experiencing a longer illness and more serious complications from the flu includes older adults, young babies and children, and people whose immune systems are already compromised.

The flu can spread through direct contact with infected individuals, contact with contaminated objects, and airborne transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC), most experts believe influenza viruses are mostly spread when people cough, sneeze or talk in close proximity to someone else. As with many viruses, people can be contagious before they start showing symptoms, making it more difficult to contain the spread of the disease.

What Are the Most Common Flu Symptoms?

When a flu virus attacks the human body, it can produce some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or feverish chills
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms can vary in number and intensity. Healthy people who contract the flu tend to experience milder symptoms. Those with chronic health problems or compromised immune systems can experience more severe symptoms, including flu-related complications. If you begin experiencing symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. Your provider may prescribe a treatment regimen to minimize the length and severity of your symptoms, if started within a couple of days of the onset of symptoms.

At a Glance: Flu FAQ


What’s the Best Way to Prevent the Flu?

The simplest and most effective prevention is getting a flu shot ahead of the flu season. Like all vaccines, it is not 100% effective. According to the CDC, “while vaccine effectiveness can vary, studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to those used to make flu vaccines.” It also reduces the severity of the illness when it doesn’t entirely prevent it. The CDC has deemed flu shots safe for children six months and older.

Practicing a healthy lifestyle can help your immune system ward off the flu virus. This includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Minimizing your intake of sugary and processed foods
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting plenty of sleep (at least 8 hours a night)
  • Washing your hands frequently

Avoiding those sick with the flu can help prevent you from getting it. If you can’t avoid contact, don’t touch your face with your hands, especially after touching a sick person or objects they may have touched.

To minimize the chances of spreading the disease, always cough or sneeze into a tissue. If tissues aren’t available, sneeze or cough into your elbow or shoulder. Don’t go to work or send your child to school until you have had a normal temperature for a minimum of 24 hours. Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaners as soon as possible after coughing or sneezing.

What Are the Best Treatment Options for the Flu?

If you begin experiencing flu symptoms, seek medical treatment as soon as possible, especially if you have a high risk of developing complications. When scheduling the appointment be sure to inform the healthcare center that you are coming in for flu treatment. At your visit, the doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to combat the virus.

If you’re not considered at risk for complications, you could still develop bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and other secondary issues. As soon as you start feeling a little sick, start drinking more water and eating more foods with antioxidants. Take over-the-counter medicines for your cough, aches and fever. Get plenty of rest and as much sleep as possible. Sitting in a steamy bath or placing a humidifier in your room can also help.

Easy Read: See our flu infographic

If it feels like you’re coming down with the flu, contact TrueCare by calling or texting (760) 736-6767. We offer same-day appointments at most of our locations, and we can provide a variety of healthcare services for you and your family – from sickness care to wellness care and everything in between.

We are proud to be a leader in affordable health care in North County San Diego and Riverside Counties. We look forward to serving you and your family!

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CDC – Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza
CDC – Seasonal Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Studies

The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this website.

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