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Seasonal Influenza FAQs

Cold weather months bring with them the influenza (flu) season. A contagious infection that strikes the respiratory system, the flu:

  • Comes in different strains or types
  • Can put infants, elderly adults, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions at higher risk
  • Can range in effects from mild to severe and even can cause death

Mount Sinai Primary Care Associates in New York City can help you take the first steps in preparing for the flu season. But be sure to take advantage of our top-quality services year-round. Our doctors and staff provide personalized care and prevention education six days a week, with evening hours for your convenience.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the flu, symptoms, people at higher risk and the best way to avoid getting it.

What is influenza? 
Influenza (the flu) is a contagious, viral infection that affects the respiratory system. Illness from a flu virus can range from mild to severe and even result in death. The different viral strains (types) spread noticeably more during the winter or cold weather months, although strains can appear in warmer weather.

How does the flu spread? 
The common belief is a flu virus is spread through droplets in the air. An infected person may sneeze or cough, releasing these droplets into the air and infecting others who breathe them in. Infection also can occur by touching a contaminated surface and transferring the virus from the hand to the mouth or nose.

How do I know if I have the flu? What are the symptoms?* 

People who have the flu may experience several or all of the following:

  • Fever (not everyone with flu will have a fever) or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea—which is more common in children

*Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

What if I have symptoms? 
If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention. Your doctor can evaluate the symptoms, and if it is the flu, will be able to begin early treatment with antiviral drugs.

Who is at risk of getting the flu?* 
Those at higher risk of complications from the flu include:

  • Children younger than 5, especially children younger than 2 years old
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have medical conditions including:
  • Chronic lung conditions such as asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis
  • Heart disease
  • Blood disorders (sickle cell disease)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Weakened immune system as a result of disease (e.g., HIV/AIDS) or medication (e.g., chemotherapy)
  • People younger than 19 years of age receiving long-term aspirin therapy
  • Morbidly obese (individuals with body mass index [BMI] of 40 or greater)
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives

*Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Are there ways to avoid catching the flu? 
The best way is to get a vaccine—a flu shot. Talk to your primary care physician who can inform you about the types of available flu vaccines.

Who should get a flu shot? 
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older receive flu shots, especially those at higher risk of complications, such as infants, elderly adults and pregnant women.

Take special note: Before you receive a flu shot, please check with your doctor if:

  • You have an allergy to eggs
  • You received a previous flu shot that caused a severe reaction

Visit the Mount Sinai Health Library to learn more about the flu and its different strains


Expect top-quality, coordinated care for all your medical needs—from routine examinations to treating complex conditions. Primary Care Associates doctors are available Monday-Saturday with evening hours for your convenience.

For information and appointments
Flu Letter to Patients

Patient Letter [PDF]

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