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What is influenza?

Seasonal Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year (see below).

Seasonal Influenza

  • Flu season in Chicago occurs annually from October-May.
  • Symptoms of the flu include:
    • Fever/chills
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headaches
    • Fatigue
  • Influenza can affect people of all ages, but some people are at higher risk for serious complications. This includes people 65 years and older, people with certain medication conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), pregnant women and young children.
  • Potential complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections.
  • Cold vs. Flu: People can sometimes confuse a cold with the flu. Generally speaking, a cold is milder than the flu and doesn't cause complications.

Preventing the Flu

Influenza Vaccinations (Flu Shot)

  • The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year. Flu vaccinations are usually delivered to health care facilities in August or early September each year.
  • The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated against the flu.
  • Even if you are not high-risk for serious complications, the people around you may not be. The best way to protect the small children and older adults in your life is to get vaccinated yourself.
  • There are many misconceptions about flu vaccines. The CDC has information about common misconceptions, with links to scientific evidence.
  • Types of Vaccinations: The CDC does not recommend one type of flu vaccine over another. However, some are better suited to certain populations if you have the choice:
    • Trivalent: contains 3 strains of flu
    • Quadrivalent: contains 4 strains of flu
    • High-Dose: approved for those 65 and older
    • Egg-Free
    • Intradermal (under the skin)
    • Flu Nasal Spray: Currently NOT recommended by the CDC

Other Prevention Methods

In addition to getting an annual flu vaccination, the CDC recommends these flu prevention measures:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, if available. If not use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.

Flu Vaccinations at the SXU Health Center

  • The SXU Health Center usually receives flu vaccines from our supplier in late August or early September of each year. We begin vaccinating our patients for the flu as soon as we have the vaccines in stock.
  • We offer many different types of flu vaccinations, including Quadrivalent, High-Dose (for those 65 years and older), pediatric and egg-free. Please call for information.
  • Most insurance plans cover this preventative vaccine at 100% and the Health Center will submit the claim to your carrier on your behalf if you have an in-network plan.
  • If you do not have insurance, are out-of network, or if you would prefer us not to submit the claim to your insurance company, please call for our low self-pay rate.

If you have any questions, please call the Health Center at 773-298-3712.

Testing and Treatment of Influenza

Many facilities, including the SXU Health Center, are able to complete a rapid flu test at an outpatient appointment. These tests can give you results in 15-20 minutes and can determine if you have Influenza A or B. Hospitals and public health laboratories may do more in-depth testing to determine the exact strain of flu you may have.

Antiviral medications are available by prescription if you are diagnosed with the flu, but they generally are only effective if they are taken within 48 hours of symptom onset. It's very important that flu antiviral drugs are started as soon as possible to treat hospitalized flu patients, people who are very sick with the flu but who do not need to be hospitalized, and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health if they develop flu symptoms. Most people who are otherwise healthy and get the flu do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.

Management of Illness

What Should I Do While I'm Sick?

  1. Rest as much as possible.
  2. Drink fluids (water is best).
  3. Manage your symptoms they way you would if you had the common cold.
  4. Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  5. If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a face mask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  6. Wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others.

When Can I Go Back to School/Work?

It is recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the need to use a fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Until then, you should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings.

Emergency Warning Signs of Flu

If you experience any of the symptoms below you may need to be seen at an emergency room. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911.

Adults Children
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Pain or pressure in chest Bluish skin color
Sudden dizziness Not drinking enough fluids
Confusion Not waking up or not interacting
Severe or persistent vomiting

Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  Fever with rash
  Infants with no tears when crying and/or significantly fewer wet diapers