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Flu | Influenza

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family from influenza (flu). MaineHealth recommends an annual flu shot for everyone age six months and older—especially people who are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. Learn more about influenza and the flu vaccine.

Flu Vaccination Options

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MaineHealth provider’s office: : MaineHealth patients may schedule directly through MyChart. If you do not have a MyChart account, please call your provider's office to schedule.

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Community flu vaccine clinic: Many community locations and pharmacies offer vaccination appointments. Find a vaccination appointment near you in Maine or New Hampshire. View all locations.

COVID Vaccination

Protect yourself by staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations too, including all recommended boosters for your age group.

Influenza FAQs

Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. It is a contagious viral infection that can spread when people cough, sneeze or talk. Flu season typically falls between October and May each year. The best way to avoid the flu is to get a vaccination before flu season begins. It takes about two weeks for a flu shot to become fully effective. Some people are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. This includes people over age 65, young children, people with chronic health conditions and pregnant women.

Common symptoms include:

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headaches

  • Feeling overly tired

  • Fever/chills

  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Contact your primary care provider if you believe you or a loved one has the flu. They will diagnose whether it is the flu, or just a cold.

Should I get an antiviral prescription?

Most of the time, people do not need antiviral drugs and can recover at home. Some people are at a higher risk of having complications from the flu. In certain cases, antiviral medication can be prescribed to help combat influenza. Complications can include:

  • Sinus infections
  • Ear infections
  • Pneumonia

Talk to your doctor about whether antiviral medication is a good choice for you. Antiviral drugs work best when prescribed within two days of getting the flu. 

What else should I do?

  • Get lots of bed rest
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed
  • Avoid contact with others
  • Stay home until you feel better

Contact your provider right away if you have any of the following medical conditions and believe you may have the flu. The flu can make certain health conditions worse. You may need additional treatment.

  • Asthma
  • Blood disorders
  • Cancer
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Extreme obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders

Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu. A yearly flu shot can greatly reduce your chance of getting the disease, and it helps prevent the spread of flu to family, friends and people in your community. The flu can be serious, leading to hospital stays and, in rare cases, death.

You should also:

  • Wash your hands frequently using soap and water
  • Use antibacterial hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow (not your hands)
  • Stay home as much as possible if you get sick
  • Wear a mask around others if you get sick

Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time. If you are not yet fully vaccinated for COVID-19, do so as soon as you can, and ideally get a flu vaccine by the end of October.

Learn more about flu vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Influenza (flu) and the common cold have very similar symptoms. This makes it hard to tell whether you or a loved one has a cold or the flu. Understanding the differences can help your treatment work more quickly. 

Cold vs. Flu

  • The flu is caused by the influenza virus, but the cold may be caused by a number of different viruses.
  • Both the flu and the cold are highly contagious.
  • Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms.
  • The flu usually lasts for 1 to 2 weeks while the cold often lasts 7 to 10 days.
  • A cold may appear at any time of year while the flu is generally seasonal.
  • Flu season occurs between fall and spring becoming most severe during winter months.

Common Cold Symptoms:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Mild to moderate coughing

Common Flu Symptoms:

  • Fever of 100 degrees and above common
  • Headaches
  • Severe aches and pains
  • Fatigue and weakness lasting for up to 2-3 weeks
  • Extreme exhaustion from the start of illness
  • Coughing, can be severe

Flu Treatments:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Rest
  • Ibuprofen (Aches/Fever)
  • Acetaminophen (Aches/Fever)
  • Prescription antiviral drugs (Must take within first 48 hours)

Cold Treatments:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Rest
  • Ibuprofen (Aches/Fever)
  • Acetaminophen (Aches/Fever)
  • Decongestants (Runny Nose)
  • Antihistamines (Runny Nose)

Call your health care provider if you believe you have the flu. Older adults and children may be at a higher risk for more severe symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication if an influenza infections is identified within the first 48 hours.

The flu shot is very safe. Most people do not have any side effects after getting a flu shot, but you should contact your doctor if you have questions. In the rare case that you experience an allergic reaction to the flu shot, call 9-1-1. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, eye or lip swelling, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat and dizziness. Children younger than 6 months old should not get the flu shot.

If you have allergies to eggs or other vaccine ingredients, if you have Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) or if you have a moderate to severe illness, talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot.
No, the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The flu shot contains inactive flu viruses or no flu viruses at all. However, you may still experience flu symptoms for a few reasons. But the vaccine needs about two weeks to take full effect. If you are exposed to the virus in this window, you may get the flu. And the flu can develop if the vaccine does not match the type/strand of flu you caught. Also, you can get flu-like symptoms from reactions to the vaccine, or from other illnesses (such as the common cold, which also exists during the flu season).