What is the current flu situation?
Although flu-related illnesses have declined in recent weeks, people in Northern California are still getting the flu and experiencing symptoms. Most flu infections are being caused by the H1N1 strain of the virus. This year's flu vaccination includes protection against H1N1. Please call 1-800-573-5811 for the most up-to-date information about where and when to get vaccinated.
What’s the latest news on H1N1 flu? Should I worry about H1N1 this coming flu season?
The 2009 H1N1 influenza virus was a significantly different virus from the other flu viruses that had been circulating for the previous 30 to 40 years. A larger number of people got sick from H1N1 flu in 2009, but the severity of the illness was similar to regular flu. In 2010, the H1N1 virus became one of the main flu viruses circulating in the community. Since this virus is now a part of the “regular” group of viruses each season, one part of the flu vaccine now protects against this strain.
How long does the flu vaccine protect me?
The flu vaccine provides protection throughout flu season, which may last from October through April. If you received a vaccine for this year's flu season, you do not need to be vaccinated a second time during the same flu season, even if you got your vaccine in September. When most people get flu vaccines, their body produces antibodies that provide them immunity from the flu. This protection lasts even as the antibodies in their body begin to decline over time. Each new flu season you should get vaccinated to best protect yourself from the flu. Flu viruses change most years and last year's vaccine may not protect you during a new flu season.
Some children younger than 9 years old may need two doses of flu vaccine, given at least one month apart. The second dose is a "booster" dose. Talk to your provider to find out if your child needs a second dose this year.
I'm feeling sick, will antibiotics help me feel better?
Colds and flu are not treated with antibiotics.
Most infections are caused by 1 of 2 types of germs: bacteria or viruses. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria. Since the common cold and the seasonal flu are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not work for these illnesses. Antibiotics won’t help you get better faster or shorten the time you have cold or flu symptoms. Unnecessary antibiotics can cause unwanted side effects including medication reactions, resistant bacteria, or new infections such as antibiotic associated diarrhea (caused by a bacteria called Clostridium difficile). The best way to relieve the symptoms of a cold or flu is to use over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, home remedies that will help you feel more comfortable while your body finishes healing, and getting plenty of rest.
Sometimes bacterial infections can complicate viral infections and cause symptoms to last longer than they normally would for a regular viral infection. Bacteria causes infections such as strep throat, some ear infections, and some sinus infections, as well as pneumonia. For bacterial infections, your doctor may recommend antibiotics.
How can my family and I stay healthy during flu season?
There are a few things that everyone can do to avoid getting sick:
- Wash your hands with soap and water as often as you can. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are helpful when you’re on the move.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes because germs spread that way.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your arms, sleeves, or tissue.
- Avoid close contact with people who are already sick.
- Get your flu vaccine.
Are over-the-counter cough and cold medicines recommended for children?
No, these medicines are not recommended for children younger than 4. Rest, fluids, and time are the best treatments for colds and flu for children at this age. Cough and cold medicines have not been proven to be effective in children, and too much medicine can have serious side effects.
Do not give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to young children. Instead, try to:
- Give your child lots of fluids.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
- Stick to quiet activities.
- Give your child lots of love and attention.
Keep your child home from school or other group activities until his or her fever has been gone for 24 hours without having to use fever reducing medicines (such as acetaminophen).
Is it safe to breastfeed if I have the flu?
Yes, breastfeeding is safe and good for your baby. You cannot give the flu to your baby through your breast milk. Breastfeeding and breast milk protect your baby’s health in many ways. Mothers pass on antibodies—a type of protein made by your immune system that fights off infection—in their breast milk.
Remember to wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before feeding or handling your baby. And be sure not to cough or sneeze in your baby’s face. If possible, only adults who are not sick should care for infants, including feeding them. If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone else give your milk to your baby temporarily.