Flu prevention

There are a couple of medication options for people who want to prevent the flu. Aside from taking healthy steps to protect yourself from the flu, you can help prevent the flu by getting the flu vaccine or, for some people, by taking antiviral medication as recommended by their doctor.

Antiviral medications are recommended to prevent flu infection for some people. Antivirals can be used to prevent flu in children and adults after coming into close contact with a person who has the flu, such as flu-infected people who live in the same household. Generally, this is not recommended for most people; however, antivirals may be recommended for people at risk for flu complications. In these situations, antiviral medication should be started as soon as possible after becoming exposed to the person with the flu. Your doctor can decide whether you should start antiviral medication.

The flu vaccine is available every fall for people to get vaccinated before flu season. The vaccine is different every year and is created based on researchers' predictions of what will be the dominating influenza virus strains circulating that year. It takes about 2 weeks after getting the flu shot before you have full protection. Everyone can benefit from the flu vaccine, but it is especially recommended for pregnant women, children at least 6 months old, people with chronic medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, kidney disease, weakened immune system, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, cancer), seniors, people living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, health care providers, and those who are in close contact with people who are at risk for flu complications.

The flu shot is not 100% effective for everyone, so even if you did receive the flu shot, there is still a chance you can get the flu. However, your symptoms may be milder. If you received the flu vaccine and still get the flu, consider the flu treatments available. If you are at risk of flu complications, see your doctor as soon as you have symptoms. Find the flu clinic nearest to you and use the doctor discussion guide to help you prepare for your visit.