Flu (Influenza) | Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatments

Flu prevention

The best way to avoid problems from the flu is by preventing it in the first place. That’s why in Massachusetts in 2020-21, an annual flu shot (influenza vaccine) is required for everyone six months and older who is attending daycare, school, or college. The flu vaccine is also recommended for adults.

What is the flu vaccine?

Injectable flu vaccines introduce small doses of an inactivated version of the flu virus into the body so the immune system can develop antibodies that can fight the flu virus. This usually takes about two weeks to be effective. Since the flu virus changes each year, the flu shot must be given annually.

Can you get the flu even if you get vaccinated?

It’s important to know that some people may still get the flu even though they got a flu shot. When this occurs, the symptoms are usually milder and may resolve more quickly. In fact, getting a flu shot can lessen the length of the illness and also prevent serious complications from occurring.

Can the flu shot cause the flu?

The flu vaccine itself can’t cause the flu, but some people may get mild side effects from the shot. This can include fever or soreness at the injection site that goes away quickly. Even if you or your child get side effects from the flu shot, they will be much milder than getting the flu.

In search of a universal flu vaccine

Researchers at Boston Children’s are helping to explore new ways to create a universal vaccine that would better protect people against the seasonal flu and related viruses.

Researchers at Boston Children’s are helping to explore new ways to create a universal flu vaccine.

What are other ways to prevent the flu?

Washing hands thoroughly, social distancing, and wearing a mask can help avoid getting the flu. If anyone in your family does get sick, be sure they stay home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.

How is flu diagnosed in children?

If your child has symptoms that could be caused by the flu, call your pediatrician to find out whether testing or treatment is needed. Your pediatrician will typically conduct a physical exam of your child and ask about symptoms that can indicate flu. They may also send a flu test to determine if it’s influenza that is making your child sick.

How is flu treated?

If your doctor confirms that your child has the flu, they may prescribe an antiviral drug that can help make the symptoms less severe and may prevent serious flu complications. The drugs work by preventing the flu virus from reproducing in the body. Sometimes antiviral drugs are also given to someone who has been exposed to the flu in the hopes of preventing them from becoming ill.

If your child has the flu, they should also:

  • get lots of rest
  • stay hydrated
  • stay away from others to avoid spreading the illness