Influenza (Seasonal Flu) - Prevention
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
- 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
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.
- 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
- Getting regular
- Not smoking. Smoking irritates the lining of your nose,
sinuses, and lungs, which may make you susceptible to complications of the
- 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
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.
- Flu: Should I Take Antiviral Medicine?