Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It spreads between people and can cause mild to severe illness. In some cases, the flu can lead to death.
- Flu season typically peaks in January or February.
- Getting the flu vaccine is your best protection against the flu.
- Flu-related complications include pneumonia and dehydration.
- Illness from seasonal flu usually lasts one to two weeks.
When is flu season?
In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as early as October and as late as May.
Preventing the Flu
The Flu Vaccine
Most people 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine. Seasonal flu vaccines have a very good safety track record.
- Get your flu shot or spray as soon as the vaccine is available in your area.
- The flu vaccine is available by shot or nasal spray.
- Mild reactions such as soreness, headaches, and fever are common side effects of the flu vaccine.
- If you experience a severe reaction such as difficulty breathing, hives, or facial swelling, seek medical attention immediately.
Learn More about the Flu Vaccine at Flu.gov
Practice Good Health Habits
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Are there medications I can take to prevent getting the flu?
If you are healthy but exposed to a person with the flu, antiviral drugs can prevent you from getting sick. The sooner you are treated with an antiviral, the more likely it will prevent the flu. Antiviral drugs are 70% to 90% effective at preventing the flu. Talk to your health care provider if you think you need antiviral drugs.