The seasonal flu: What you need to know

Time saver 3 min read

Traditionally, the fall and winter months signal the start of flu – or influenza – season in the U.S. While it's hard to know what this flu season will look like, there are things you can do to prepare. Let's dive in and learn more about the flu, what you can do to prevent getting the flu and what to do if you get sick.

We’ve got answers to all of your burning flu-related questions.

Should I get the flu vaccine?

Hands down, the flu vaccine is your best defense against the seasonal flu. And scientific studies tell us that even if the flu shot doesn’t target the exact strain that’s circulating, it still offers protection and can reduce the severity of your symptoms. After you get the flu vaccine, it does take about two weeks to develop full immunity or protection. That’s why healthcare professionals recommend getting the flu shot by the end of October. But even if you miss that deadline, it’s still beneficial to get vaccinated as the flu can stick around until May. Also, don't forget about hand-washing. Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently is one of the simplest ways to avoid flu-causing germs.

Keep at-home COVID tests on hand

Seasonal flu and COVID-19 share some symptoms. At-home tests are an easy and effective way to know if COVID is behind your symptoms.

Are the seasonal flu and stomach flu the same?

Flu symptoms that leave you feeling nauseous and throwing up are associated with the stomach flu, or what the pros call “gastroenteritis.” Like the seasonal flu, the stomach flu is also caused by a virus. However, it’s different than the virus that causes the seasonal flu.

Seasonal flu has a set of telltale symptoms that usually come on suddenly including:

  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever over 100 degrees
  • Congestion
  • Dry cough

You can also sometimes have a little nausea, but nothing as intense as the stomach flu. With the seasonal flu, aches and fatigue can make it hard to even get out of bed.

Amy's quick tip

Wondering if it’s the flu? Symptoms like body aches and a high fever can come on with a bang. You may feel like you got hit by a bus.

– Amy Olsen, CNP for virtuwell

How can I treat the flu?

It’s good to be aware of when and where the flu is spreading. If symptoms hit, you want to get a diagnosis ASAP, so you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the flu to others around you.

Online care through Virtuwell is a quick and convenient option that can save you time and a trip to a crowded clinic waiting room. Get your symptoms evaluated, tips on how to speed up your recovery and information on what to expect – all in a matter of minutes.

Am I high-risk for flu complications?

If you’re in a high-risk group, it’s especially crucial to get a prompt flu diagnosis and treatment plan. Anti-viral medications like Tamiflu® can be prescribed to manage flu symptoms and help you feel better, faster. To be effective, these types of medications should be taken within two days of getting sick.

High-risk groups include

  • Kids younger than age 5
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone with a chronic medical condition – including asthma, lung disorders, kidney problems, metabolic issues and those with decreased immune function

A trusted source for understanding flu vaccine facts and tracking flu outbreaks and trends is the CDC. If you’re experiencing signs of the flu, learn more about treatment at

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