by SANDHYA DESAI, M.D.; Scripps Coastal Medical Center, Carlsbad

Get the Facts about the Flu

scripps_desaiAs the weather cools, football fans rejoice, and families look forward to holidays — and no one wants the flu to slow them down. The following flu facts should help you prevent this annual affliction from foiling your fall and winter fun.

Can you get the flu from the vaccine?
No, the flu vaccine, which generally includes three to four flu strains and covers the likely types of influenza A and B, can’t give you the flu. The flu shot contains dead viruses or no viruses, so you can’t catch the flu from getting one. You might have aches or a low fever, or your arm might hurt, but these side effects are generally mild. While the nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses, they are weakened and cannot cause the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Also be aware that it takes about two weeks after the vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection against the flu.

How does the flu spread?
Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough so any droplets with flu fluids are not spread through the air. It’s best if you can sneeze into a tissue or paper towel, but if you don’t have those handy, sneeze into the crook of your elbow and wash your clothes before wearing them again. Don’t sneeze into your hands because the virus will be transferred to any surface you touch, such as a door knob. To avoid flying droplets from others, put your arm over your face and turn away.

How far should I stand from someone with the flu?
Keep your distance from someone who is suffering from the flu. Infectious flu-containing particles can travel at least six feet.

I think I had the flu. Should I still get vaccinated?
Yes, even if you think you have had the flu already, get your flu shot. First, unless you were tested for the flu virus, you may not have had the flu, and even if you were diagnosed with the flu, you had one strain of the virus. The vaccine protects against several strains of the virus, so getting vaccinated lowers your risk of getting sick from other strains. However, be aware that the vaccine does not guarantee that you will not get the flu because the effectiveness varies from year to year.

Where did the name originate?
Influenza earned its name from an Italian folk word that attributed colds, cough, and fever to the influence of the stars.

How long can the virus last?
The influenza virus generally can survive on surfaces such as doorknobs or books between two and eight hours, according to the CDC.

When is flu season?
In the United States flu season occurs in the fall and winter, with seasonal flu activity peaking in January or February. However, flu outbreaks can occur as early as October and as late as May.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including your doctor’s office, many employers, and pharmacies. Check with your primary care physician to find out more.

Sandhya Desai, M.D., is a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in Carlsbad. Dr. Desai provides comprehensive primary care and believes that laughter is the best medicine. Fluent in Gujartee, Dr. Desai enjoys tennis and reading when not helping patients.

scripps_logoLooking for a new doctor? To find a Scripps physician near you call 760-203-4048 or visit