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What You Need to Know About Influenza

Jan. 2017

You may be concerned about seasonal flu, and we want you to have the facts about the disease – and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.

How to get help

If you suspect that you may have the flu, visit your primary care physician or contact your local health department for guidance. For residents of Tennessee, contact the Tennessee Department of Health at 615-741-7247.

Contact Your Doctor

What is Influenza (flu)?

Influenza (flu) is a viral infection. People often use the term "flu" to describe any kind of mild illness, such as a cold or a stomach virus, that has symptoms like the flu. But the real flu is different. Flu symptoms are usually worse than a cold and last longer. The flu usually does not cause vomiting or diarrhea in adults.

Most flu outbreaks happen in late fall and winter. Because symptoms may not start for a couple of days, you may pass the flu to someone before you know you have it.

What Causes the flu?

The flu is caused by influenza viruses A and B. There are different strains of the flu virus every year.

Learn more at the Healthwise® Knowledgebase

What are the symptoms

The flu causes a fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat. You will probably feel tired and less hungry than usual. The symptoms usually are the worst for the first 3 or 4 days. But it can take 1 to 2 weeks to get completely better.

It usually takes 1 to 4 days to get symptoms of the flu after you have been around someone who has the virus.

Most people get better without problems. But sometimes the flu can lead to a bacterial infection, such as an ear infection, asinus infection, or bronchitis. Less often, the flu may cause a more serious problem, such as pneumonia.

Certain people are at higher risk of problems from the flu. They include young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with long-term illnesses or with impaired immune systems that make it hard to fight infection.

Learn more at the Healthwise® Knowledgebase

How is the flu diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. This usually gives the doctor enough information to find out if you have the flu, especially if many cases of a similar illness have occurred in the area and the local health department reports a flu outbreak.

In some cases, the doctor may do a blood test or take a sample of fluid from your nose or throat to find out what type of flu virus you have.

Learn more at the Healthwise® Knowledgebase

How is it treated?

Most people can treat flu symptoms at home. Home treatment includes resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking medicine to lower your fever. But some people need to go to the hospital for treatment. They may have severe symptoms or get pneumonia. Or the flu infection may make an existing health problem worse.

If you think you have the flu, your doctor may be able to give you medicine that can make the symptoms milder. It's best to start taking it within 2 days of your first symptoms.

Learn more at the Healthwise® Knowledgebase

Can the flu be prevented?

You can help prevent the flu by getting the flu vaccine every year. It's best to get the vaccine as soon as it's available. It comes as a shot or in a spray that you breathe in through your nose.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months old and older should get a flu vaccine. The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of problems from the flu, including:

  • Young children.
  • Adults ages 50 and older.
  • Adults and children who have long-term health problems or an impaired immune system.
  • Women who will be pregnant during the flu season.


The flu vaccine is also important for health care workers and anyone who lives or works with a person who is at higher risk of problems from the flu.

The vaccine usually prevents most cases of the flu. But even if you do get the flu after you've had the vaccine, your symptoms will be milder and you'll have less chance of problems from the flu. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.

Learn more at the Healthwise® Knowledgebase

2016-2017 Season

  • The CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get the flu vaccine.
  • This season’s vaccines will protect against common flu viruses like H1N1 and H3N2.
  • Due to concerns about its effectiveness, CDC advises against the use of the “nasal spray” flu vaccine.
  • The CDC encourages those with egg allergies to get their vaccine under the supervision of a health care provider.

Learn More

What BlueCross is doing

  • We're working with key state and federal health officials, provider organizations and others to monitor reports of infectious diseases including the flu.
  • We follow information and guidance from the CDC and receive alerts for any newly acquired information and updates. 
  • We’re in contact with officials at the Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) and local health departments, when appropriate. TDOH also collaborates with medical providers, hospitals, laboratories and professional organizations statewide on the latest information, guidelines and coordinated response.

Description: lick here to learn about HealthwiseThis information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Healthwise is a URAC accredited health web site content provider. Privacy PolicyHow this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more, visit Healthwise.org

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