9 Things You Need to Know Now about the Flu

This is the worst flu season in years — emergency rooms are filling up fast with beleaguered, feverish victims. If you’ve been lucky enough to escape the flu so far, it’s not too late to help make sure you don’t get it.

We turned to Sharon Orrange, MD, and Jeremy Shapiro, MD, for answers to some common flu questions.

1. Is it too late to get a flu shot?

Dr. Orrange: No. Though influenza cases have peaked, the flu is surging in some states. We expect flu cases through February, so you should still be vaccinated if you aren’t. It will take two weeks for the flu shot to give you full immunity.

2. Will the flu shot make me sick?

Dr. Orrange: No. The flu shot is an inactive virus (unlike the FluMist nasal spray) and will not make you sick with the flu. Adverse reactions to the shot (low grade fever, body aches, etc.) are exceedingly rare.

3. My friend/coworker/mom got the flu shot and got sick. What happened?

Dr. Orrange: Many folks will still get common cold/upper respiratory infections, bronchitis or sinusitis and believe the shot failed them. Remember, the flu shot only protects you from influenza.

4. Does this year’s flu vaccine cover the strain making people sick?

Dr. Orrange: This year’s flu vaccine is a 90 percent match for the influenza H3N2 strain that is making folks sick this year. That, my friend, is good news.

5. If I’m sick, can I still get the vaccine?

Dr. Orrange:  If you have a mild upper respiratory infection (sore throat, dry cough), you are fine to get the flu vaccine. Ideally, for full protection you should have a robust immune system when you get the vaccine, but a lingering dry cough, for example, should not stop you from getting it.

6. I think I have the flu. Do I need Tamiflu?

Dr. Orrange:  If you have sudden onset of high fever, body aches, headache or nausea among other things, call your doctor’s office and ask about receiving Tamiflu. This year there has been no resistance to Tamiflu, which is a good thing, and it may shorten the duration of your illness.

7. What else can I do to avoid the flu?

Dr. Shapiro: Avoid contact with sick people. Now, not everyone who is sick has the flu, but this is a timeless recommendation. And always remember to frequently wash your hands with soap and water…my favorite universal health precaution.

8. Does getting the flu in January mean I won’t get it in February? 

Dr. Shapiro: Unfortunately not. Each season, more than one strain of flu circulates, so it’s possible to get another strain a month or two later.  That’s why the flu vaccine is highly recommended as it covers three strains of the flu.

9. When am I considered germ free after getting the flu? 

Dr. Shapiro: Avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours after being fever free. Same advice goes for any upper respiratory tract infection.


Take our quiz Fight the Flu for 20 smart, proven ways to help you stay flu-free this season.

Have you had the flu this season? How bad was it? Did anything help? Leave a comment in the box below.

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Taylor Dahl

Taylor Dahl is the Associate Editor and Web Producer at Sharecare. Taylor has experience in digital, print and social media for companies such as Time Inc., Atlanta Metropolitan Publishing and the United States Marine Corps. Favorite exercise: dog-walking or the elliptical. Health vice: Diet Coke. Wellness goal: lose 15 pounds on the Transformation Nation program.

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