Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
Hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol hand gel is an important way to prevent picking up a flu virus. Avoid touching the mouth, nose, or eyes prior to hand washing.
Avoid close contact with people who are ill. Droplets from a cough or sneeze can spread infection and are estimated to be able to travel about 6 feet.
Vaccination is the mainstay of flu prevention. The killed flu vaccine (a flu shot) should be given during the fall. In children, the flu vaccine can be given to children older than 6 months
of age and in two separate doses for children younger than 9 years of age who have not been previously vaccinated.
The flu vaccine is also available as a nasal spray (FluMist) for healthy children 5 years
of age or older, adolescents, and adults 49 years of age or younger. Children 5-8 years
of age who have not received the flu vaccine as a nasal spray before require two doses about
two months apart. Children who take aspirin should not receive the live vaccine.
Keep children with the flu at home while the fever lasts. Once the fever is gone, children may return to school and day care.
Adults can spread the flu to others from about one day before they feel sick to
five to seven days into the illness. People with weak immune systems or children
may pass the flu virus even longer than seven days.
For 2009-2010, two distinct vaccines were available, one for the seasonal influenza strain, and one for the H1N1 strain. For the 2010-2011 season and for the current 2012-2013 season, the H1N1 vaccine is included in the regular seasonal flu vaccine. The current vaccine is available both as a killed injection
or live nasal spray.
Flu in Children Prognosis
It often takes a few weeks to return to normal activity after the flu. The
cough may last for weeks. Effective anti-influenza drugs have been shown to shorten
the duration of illness by one to two days when therapy is started within 48 hours of symptom onset.