Flu: FAQ

What should I do if I am at high risk for complications from influenza and think I have the flu?

Check with your doctor promptly as antiviral drugs may be a treatment option.

Who should be vaccinated?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age 6 months and older should get influenza vaccine every year.

When to be vaccinated?
Yearly influenza vaccination should begin as soon as vaccine is available, and continue throughout the influenza season. In Minnesota, influenza season often extends into May.

Influenza vaccine is available at all Park Nicollet Clinic locations, and within many Park Nicollet specialty departments. Call your nearest clinic to schedule a nurse-only vaccination appointment, or ask to receive a vaccine at another scheduled appointment.

Are antibiotics effective against influenza?

No. Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections. Influenza and most cases of acute bronchitis (another name for a "chest cold") are caused by viruses. Doctors will sometimes treat influenza and bronchitis with antiviral medications. But antibiotics can’t treat these conditions, prevent their spread or ease their symptoms. It’s important to use antibiotics only when they’re necessary, because bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics over time. You can help keep antibiotics effective by not taking them to treat influenza, bronchitis or other viral infections.

Are there other medicines that can treat the flu?
Your clinician may recommend influenza antiviral medications. These medications can reduce the severity of influenza symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by one to two days. They also may make you less contagious to other people. Antiviral drugs must be started within two days after you get sick.

Two influenza antiviral drugs are recommended for use in the United States: oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamavir (Relenza). Side effects are different for each drug. It is important to remember that influenza antiviral drugs are not a substitute for getting the influenza vaccine.

When should I seek medical help? Are there danger signs I should watch for?

Seek urgent medical attention if your child has any of these danger signs:
  • Fast breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluid
  • Severe vomiting or vomiting that continues awhile
  • Not waking up or not interacting (being listless)
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough. This could be a sign of pneumonia. 

Seek urgent medical attention if you have any of these danger signs:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • New or sudden confusion
  • Severe vomiting or vomiting that continues awhile
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough. This could be a sign of pneumonia. 

Why does PNHS charge more for influenza vaccine than retail pharmacies?
Influenza vaccines administered at retail pharmacies are priced below the typical market rate to encourage people to come into their stores knowing that they will likely purchase other items. Park Nicollet provides influenza vaccine to patients as part of comprehensive health care. We are unable to provide our influenza vaccine at below cost rate. 


For additional information about influenza:
Influenza (Flu) - Minnesota Dept. of Health
CDC - Seasonal Influenza (Flu)