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Influenza (Seasonal Flu) - Prevention

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Although antiviral medicines sometimes prevent the flu, they do not work in the same way as a yearly immunization and should not replace a flu shot or dose of the nasal spray vaccine.

Before getting a flu vaccine, talk to your doctor if:

  • You ever had a serious allergic reaction to eggs or to a previous dose of influenza vaccine.
  • You have had Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • Your child has ever had a seizure.

Because the nasal spray vaccine is more expensive than a flu shot, it may not be covered by your health insurance plan. Check with your insurance company.

Almost every community has a program that offers flu vaccines at low cost during the flu season. You also can get a flu vaccine during a routine visit to a doctor or pharmacy. Many health clinics have set hours at the start of the flu season for people to get flu vaccines without needing to make an appointment.

dplink.gif Flu Vaccines: Should I Get a Flu Vaccine?

Other ways to reduce your risk for the flu or flu complications

Increase your chance of staying healthy by:

  • Washing your hands often, especially during winter months when the flu is most common.
  • Keeping your hands away from your nose, eyes, and mouth. Viruses are most likely to enter your body through these areas.
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Not smoking. Smoking irritates the lining of your nose, sinuses, and lungs, which may make you susceptible to complications of the flu.
  • Taking probiotics. One study has shown that taking probiotics helps prevent influenza symptoms and reduce antibiotic use in children.5

Using antiviral medicines to prevent the flu

Two antiviral medicines (oseltamivir and zanamivir) can help prevent the flu caused by influenza A and B viruses. These medicines may also reduce the length of the illness if they are given no more than 48 hours after the first symptoms. During a flu outbreak, these medicines may be given at the same time as a flu vaccine and for 2 weeks after while your body produces antibodies to protect you from the virus. The influenza medicines are usually given to people who are very sick with the flu or to those who are likely to have complications from the flu. But they may also be used for a person who has been sick with the flu for less than 48 hours. These medicines are taken by mouth (pill) or inhaled into the lungs (inhaler).

The antiviral medicines amantadine and rimantadine have been used to prevent flu caused by influenza A. But for the past few years the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised doctors not to use these medicines to treat or prevent the flu.6 These medicines have not worked against most types of the flu virus. Amantadine and rimantadine do not protect against influenza B. Be sure to talk with your doctor about the medicine that is best for you.

dplink.gif Flu: Should I Take Antiviral Medicine?
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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