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Flu Symptoms and Treatment

How to stay healthy during flu season in San Diego

A man gets an annual flu shot at a clinic.

How to stay healthy during flu season in San Diego

The influenza virus, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory virus that comes on suddenly and intensely. If you are eligible, getting the flu shot every year is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your loved ones. 

At Scripps, we believe in comprehensive, preventive care so you and your family can stay healthy throughout the year. As your San Diego resource for information about the flu, we can help you:

Visitor policy during flu season

With cases of influenza reaching elevated levels in San Diego County in January 2020, Scripps has implemented a few temporary restrictions for visitors and guests who come to our hospitals and outpatient clinics.

Restrictions include the following:

  • Visitors and guests with flu-like symptoms are not allowed inside Scripps hospitals or clinics, even if assisting a patient. Any visitor who enters a facility with flu symptoms will be asked to leave immediately.
  • All children 14 and under should not enter Scripps hospitals or clinics unless they’re a patient receiving care. This restriction for child visitors includes lobbies, common areas and cafeterias.
  • Patients receiving care at Scripps hospitals are restricted to having no more than two visitors at a time in their room and no more than four total visitors per day.

For more information, review the Scripps hospital and clinic visitor guidelines and learn more about flu shot availability.

Flu virus FAQs

Many people misunderstand what the flu is and how it's spread. Get the facts and learn how to stay well this flu season.

Do I need a flu shot every year?

Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommends getting the flu shot annually for everyone 6 months and older, with few exceptions. The flu shot is modified every year to match the flu strains that are expected to cause the majority of flu cases during the season. 

Check with your doctor before receiving the flu vaccine if any of the following apply to you:

  • Have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • Had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination
  • Had Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever

How long does the flu last?

For most healthy individuals, the flu typically lasts a week. The most severe symptoms usually subside in two or three days. If you have an underlying condition, such as emphysema or another chronic illness, symptoms like fatigue, weakness and a cough often last up to two weeks.

When is flu season?

In the United States, flu season occurs annually beginning in the fall. Flu activity usually increases in October and November and peaks between December and February. The flu season can last as late as May.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

Early symptoms of a cold and the flu can be similar, including congestion, coughing and fatigue. However, flu symptoms come on rapidly and may include high fever, body aches and pains, headaches, chest congestion and a cough. In general, the flu is more severe than the common cold, with more intense symptoms. 

The common cold usually starts slowly. Symptoms that are not typical of the flu are a stuffy or runny nose and sore throat. 

Learn more about the differences between the flu and the common cold.

How is the flu treated?

Most cases of the flu are treated primarily with bed rest and plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter pain relievers may help with symptoms. Fever reducers, antihistamines, decongestants and cough medicines may help relieve symptoms.  

Prescription antiviral flu drugs may be a treatment option if you are at high risk of serious flu complications. When started within two days of becoming sick, antiviral drugs can decrease the severity and duration of flu symptoms and prevent flu complications. 

Always check with your doctor about the treatment plan that is right for you or a loved one. 

Is the flu contagious?

Yes, the flu is contagious. You are most contagious in the first three to four days after the illness begins. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.