Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

[+] Expand All Items Below | [-] Contract All Items Below

Preventing the Flu

 What are ways to prevent the flu?

The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu and its complications. It lowers your likelihood of getting sick. And if you do catch the flu, it’s likely to be milder than if you weren’t vaccinated.

Each year, scientists and health experts develop seasonal flu shots to protect against the three or four flu strains that research suggests will be most common during the upcoming season.

The vaccine works by triggering your body to produce protective antibodies that help prevent the flu. When we have a COVID vaccine, it will work the same way.

Other ways to prevent the flu include:

  • Practicing the 3Ws helps prevent COVID-19 and the flu. This year be sure to wear a face mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash your hands
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • If you are sick, stay home from work and keep your kids home from school if they are sick so it does not spread
  • If you do become sick with the flu, ask your doctor about antiviral medications

 Who should get a flu vaccination?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination against the flu for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine. Vaccination against the flu can make illness milder and reduce the risk of more serious outcomes, making it especially important for those at higher risk of complications.

 Who is at high risk of getting serious complications from the flu?

The following is a list of all the factors that are known to increase a person’s risk of getting serious complications from flu:

  • Adults 65 years and older
  • All children younger than 5 years old are considered at high risk for serious flu complications, but the highest risk is for those younger than 2 years old. Infants younger than 6 months cannot receive flu vaccine.  To protect infants, it is important to make sure everyone who spends time with them gets the vaccine, Infants younger than 6 months have the highest hospitalization and death rates from flu.
  • Asthma
  • Neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • People who are obese with a body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher
  • People younger than 19 years old on long-term aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications.
  • People with a weakened immune system due to disease (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or some cancers such as leukemia) or medications (such as those receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer, or persons with chronic conditions requiring chronic corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system)
  • People who have had a stroke

Other people at high risk from the flu:

  • Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after the end of pregnancy
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

 What should I do if I am at high risk for serious complications from the flu?

Getting a flu vaccine each year is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu. If you are at high risk of developing serious flu complications, vaccination is especially important. When you get vaccinated, you reduce your risk of getting sick with flu and possibly being hospitalized or dying from flu.

For infants at high risk who are too young to receive the flu vaccine, it is especially important that everyone around them is vaccinated and practices the 3Ws.

How to Get a Flu Vaccination

 Where can I get a flu vaccination?

Flu vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments. Visit vaccinefinder.org/find-vaccine to find locations.

 I don’t have a primary care provider, where can I get a flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are also available at locations including local health departments and pharmacies. You can use vaccinefinder.org to find where flu vaccines are available near you.

 I don’t have insurance. Where can I get a flu vaccination?

Anyone can get a flu shot at a local health department in North Carolina. Costs vary and may be covered by private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. Check the Flu Vaccine Finder at vaccinefinder.org, or call your local health department to learn more.

Also, GoodRx is partnering with many retailers to offer discounts on flu vaccination at various retail pharmacies.

Flu and COVID-19

 Will there be flu along with COVID-19 in the fall and winter?

Yes. It is likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading at the same time.  This means getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.

 If COVID-19 is spreading in my community, should I still go out and get a flu vaccine?

Yes. Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting your health and your family’s health this season. When going to get a flu vaccine, practice the 3Ws: wear a face mask over your nose and mouth; wait at least 6 feet from others; and wash your hands frequently with soap and water. The provider giving you the flu vaccine will be doing the same to keep everyone safe.

 Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. It is possible to have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this is.

Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing by a health care provider can help determine if you are sick with flu, COVID-19, or both.

 Is COVID-19 more dangerous than flu?

Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization or death. While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, at this time, it does seem that COVID-19 is more likely to result in hospitalization or death than seasonal influenza.

 Does a flu vaccination increase your risk of getting COVID-19?

No. There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.

 I am not feeling well. Can I still get a flu vaccine?

If you are not feeling well, talk to your vaccination provider about your symptoms before getting a flu vaccine. They can tell you whether you should get the flu vaccine and where you can get one. If you have only mild symptoms and do not have a fever, it is generally safe to get a flu shot. Some people report having mild side effects after flu vaccination – such as soreness, low-grade fever, headache or muscle aches. However, flu vaccines do not cause flu illness.

 Should I get a flu vaccine if I have been diagnosed with COVID-19?

You should wait to get a flu vaccine if you have COVID-19, regardless of whether you have symptoms. Anyone who has COVID-19 or who has been exposed needs to isolate until they have met the criteria to stop. While mild illness is not a reason to avoid a flu vaccination, your visit should be postponed to avoid exposing health care personnel and others to the virus that causes COVID-19. When scheduling or confirming appointments for vaccination, patients should tell the provider’s office in advance if they currently have or develop any symptoms of COVID-19.

 How can I tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 symptoms?

Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including common signs and symptoms listed above. COVID-19 seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people. Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.

Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.

Learn more about the similarities and differences between the flu and COVID-19 from the CDC.

Flu Treatments

 Can the flu be treated?

Yes. There are prescription medications called antiviral drugs that can be used to treat influenza illness in both adults and children. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense to treat the flu if you get sick and are most effective within 48 hours of when you begin to have symptoms. A flu vaccine is still the best way to prevent influenza.

 What are antiviral drugs?

Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an intravenous solution) that fight against the flu in your body. Antiviral drugs are not sold over the counter. You can only get them if you have a prescription from your doctor or health care provider. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.

 What are the benefits of antiviral drugs?

When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They also may reduce the risk of complications such as ear infections in children, respiratory complications requiring antibiotics, and hospitalization in adults. For people with a high-risk medical condition, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.

 Can pregnant women take antiviral drugs?

In most cases, yes. If you are pregnant and think you have the flu, call your health care provider right away for advice on treatment options.

 Who should take antiviral drugs?

It’s very important that antiviral drugs are used early to treat hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness, and people who are at higher risk for flu complications based on their age or underlying medical conditions. Other people also may be treated with antiviral drugs by their doctor. Most otherwise healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs are most effective when started within 48 hours of when your symptoms first begin.

Last Modified: October 14, 2020