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What is the flu?

The flu (also called influenza) is an illness that affects the lungs and nose. The flu is spread when a person with the flu coughs or sneezes and another person comes into contact with the germs.

What are symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms can be different in every person. The flu is different from a cold because flu symptoms usually appear suddenly. Cold symptoms usually appear gradually over a few days.

Common flu symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache, muscle or body aches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Who can catch the flu?

Babies, young children, and the elderly are most likely to develop the flu and other medical concerns from the flu, like pneumonia, or fluid in the lungs.

When is flu season?

Flu season is during the fall and winter. Your family should get the flu vaccine before flu season starts. This way, they are protected when it begins.

What is the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine helps prevent the flu during flu season. All children over age 6 months and all adults should get the flu vaccine.

Why does my family need to get the flu vaccine every day?

  • The flu vaccine changes every year because the types of flu can be different every year. Doctors make a new vaccine every year for the type of flu they expect to affect people. Some years, the vaccine works better than others. Doctors still consider the yearly flu vaccine the best protection against the flu.
  • The more people who get the vaccine, the more people will be protected against the flu. Doctors call this herd immunity.
  • By your family getting the flu vaccine, you are also helping to protect others. This includes those who cannot get the vaccine, whose immune systems (system that fights off germs and illness) are weakened or who have trouble fighting off infections.

Can you catch the flu from the flu vaccine?

No. You cannot catch the flu from the flu vaccine.

Learn more about the flu, including up-to-date facts and tips on how to prevent and treat the flu.

Rev. 4/2018. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treat any medical conditions Reviewed by the MGHfC Family Advisory Council.