Up to 40% of the residents in your community will get the flu
How Do I Prevent the Flu?
this winter. This handout is designed to ensure that you aren’t
One of the best ways to prevent the flu is through vaccination
every year. The shot can be given to adults and children of any
What is the Flu?
age at any time during the flu season. If you’re pregnant, it’s safe
Influenza or “flu” is an infection of the respiratory tract caused
to receive the injection in your second or third trimester.
If you’re allergic to eggs, do not get a flu shot unless you have
It occurs in three forms, types A, B and C. Influenza A and B
undergone desensitization. The viral material used in flu vaccines
cause infection in humans; Influenza C causes infection in animals.
is grown in eggs, so the vaccine could trigger an allergic reaction.
The virus typically incubates for 24 to 48 hours, and can affect
Also, if you have a fever, do not get vaccinated until the fever
The flu season is annual because the proteins that coat the
Flu vaccination does not cause the flu, and side effects of vacci-
virus change constantly, and our immune systems do not recog-
nation are minor. If you have never received the vaccination or
nize and cannot protect us from the new strains. Thus, almost
had the flu, you might experience fever, malaise and muscle
every year a new strain causes infections, and a vaccine cannot
aches. These reactions develop 6 to 12 hours after the injection
be developed until new viral strains are isolated.
and last for 1 or 2 days. In rare cases, patients may exhibit imme-
How is Influenza Spread?
diate reactions, such as hives, welts, wheezing and difficulty
The influenza virus is spread through the air. Coughing by an
breathing, as a result of an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
infected person fills the air with microscopic droplets of influenza
During the flu season, try to avoid any unnecessary contact
virus that are inhaled by others. Once the particles land on the lin-
with people who have upper respiratory infections. In addition,
ing of the nose, throat or airways, the virus starts reproducing
watch your stress level, eat healthy and get plenty of rest. You Have the Flu … Now What?
The flu has a rapid onset, with symptoms that are usually more
Rest, plenty of fluids and comfort measures are the best strate-
severe than the common cold. In certain populations, such as the
gies for coping with the flu. Your NP may recommend aceta-
elderly or those with weakened immune systems, the flu can be
minophen (Tylenol) to relieve aches and fever. For multiple symp-
quite severe. In most cases, the flu causes headache, fever, chills,
toms, such as congestion, cough and a runny nose, a combination
muscle aches, an overall lousy feeling (malaise), cough and sore
of a decongestant (Sudafed or Afrin) and an antihistamine
(Benadryl, Dimetapp or Tavist) may be helpful. Cough suppres-
Stress, excessive fatigue and poor nutrition are some the main
sants, expectorants and local anesthetics might also be prescribed.
risk factors of contracting the flu. If you’ve had a recent illness
For the first 4 days, your NP will recommend bed rest and
that causes lower resistance, have a chronic illness (lung or heart
increased fluid intake. Resume your normal activities only after all
disease or diabetes) or are pregnant, your risk for catching the flu
is a bit higher than average. Students, office workers and health
care providers who are in close proximity with others face an
—Information adapted from Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of
Influenza and the Common Cold by the American Lung Association, CDC fact
Your nurse practitioner has given you this patient education handout to further explain or remind you about principles related to your medical condition. This handout is a general guide only. If you have specific questions, be sure to discuss them with your nurse practitioner. 74 ADVANCE for Nurse Practitioners • January 2002
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