All Your Flu Questions Answered Here

Just when us moms get the hang of the back to school routine, it’s THAT time. You know… That time to think about how to keep everyone healthy – especially against the flu. It can be difficult and can seem a little overwhelming to keep it all straight: when is the vaccine available, and when is the best time to get it, which type do you get – shot or mist – and how long until it takes effect. Thankfully, our sponsors at Next Level Urgent Care have answers from their team of physicians who are ready and waiting to protect you against the flu…and if someone in your family happens to catch it, they are there to treat you quickly and effectively too!

Flu Questions

How can you tell the difference between the common cold and the flu?

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. It can sometimes be very hard to tell the difference between flu and colds although cold symptoms are generally much less severe. We use the rapid flu test at the office to differentiate between the two viruses.

If you or a member of your family have any of the above symptoms and are unsure if it’s the flu, stop by Next Level Urgent Care any day of the week, even after hours {yes, they’re open 7 days a week from 9am to 9pm!}. It takes just minutes to run a rapid flu test. Wait times are usually low, but you can download the App  so you don’t have to wait AT ALL. Or, if you are not sure whether you need to be seen in person, you can always call Next Level’s Call Ahead Care Line, and speak confidentially to one of their nurses.


Why do we need to get vaccinated every year?

Our immune response to the vaccine declines over time so in order to be sure you are immune for the season, it is good to get vaccinated at the beginning of the new season.

Even more importantly, the predominant strain of virus changes every year so every year the flu vaccine is a different formulation designed to be effective against the most likely strain for that year.

When should we get vaccinations?

The flu season generally starts in October and runs until May. The CDC doesn’t release the quadrivalent vaccine until September, so shoot for getting your family vaccinated during the months of September or early October. Keep in mind that it takes 2 weeks for antibodies to develop to protect you from the flu so plan ahead and act fast.

What’s the difference between the quadrivalent and trivalent vaccine?

These are a couple of big and confusing words that you might hear about the different flu vaccines. Vaccines that protect against 3 viruses are called trivalent :: influenza A {H1N1} viruses, influenza A {H3N2} viruses, and influenza B viruses. The Quadrivalent vaccine protects against an additional influenza B virus strain.

Once I get the flu shot, how long before I am immune to the flu?

Great question! It takes 2 weeks for antibodies to develop that protect you against the flu so don’t wait until everyone around you starts getting the flu to get the vaccination. Children between 6 months and 8 years old may need two doses of the vaccine for it to be effective.  If your provider feels your child needs the two doses, those doses should be given 4 weeks apart.

If I get vaccinated, can I still get the flu?

Unfortunately, because the predominant virus strain can be tricky to predict, sometimes the vaccine doesn’t end up covering the type of flu that is most prevalent. In fact, last year, the vaccine was only 18% effective. That was a really bad year. In general, it is about 60% effective.

The vaccine is subject to other variables such as ::

  • The amount of time between vaccination and exposure to the virus.  A person can get the flu if he/she is exposed shortly before or after he/she is vaccinated {before one becomes immune}.
  • Age and health status.  The flu vaccine works best for young healthy people with good immune systems. If you don’t mount an immune response to the vaccine, then you will not be immune to the virus. So the very old and the very young are at risk for getting the flu despite being vaccinated.

If I think I have the flu, is it worth coming in to be tested?

Yes, because if identified early enough {which is especially critical for those at high risk of developing complications like pneumonia} we give one of the antivirals, most commonly Tamiflu or Relenza. These medications may also help shorten the duration symptoms in otherwise healthy people if taken in the first 48 hours of symptom onset.

My child has the flu. Can he or she go to back to school or day care?

No! Keep children with the flu at home and away from healthy people for at least 24 hours after fever is gone. Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

I hate shots. Can I get the nasal spray instead? Or are there any people who should NOT get the nasal spray vaccine?

Yes! Flumist, the nasal spray vaccine, is not for everyone. Below is the list of those who should not get this formulation ::

  1. Children younger than 2 years
  2. Adults 50 years and older
  3. People with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or to a previous dose of any influenza vaccine
  4. People who are allergic to eggs
  5. Children or adolescents {2 years through 17 years of age} on long-term aspirin treatment
  6. Pregnant women
  7. People with weakened immune systems {immunosuppression}
  8. Children 2 years through 4 years who have asthma or who have had a history of wheezing in the past 12 months
  9. People who have taken influenza antiviral drugs within the previous 48 hours
  10. People who care for severely immunocompromised persons who require a protective environment {or otherwise avoid contact with those persons for 7 days after getting the nasal spray vaccine}

Is it safe for pregnant women to get seasonal flu vaccine?

Yes. The flu shot has been given safely to millions of pregnant women. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. However, pregnant women should not be vaccinated using the nasal spray.

Can a breastfeeding mother get the flu shot or the nasal spray?

Yes. Seasonal flu vaccines should be given to breastfeeding mothers, and breastfeeding women can get either the flu shot or the nasal spray form of the vaccine. Breastfeeding is fully compatible with flu vaccination, and preventing the flu in mothers can reduce the chance that the infant will get the flu. This is especially important for infants younger than 6 months old, since they are too young to be vaccinated.

Can you get the flu from the flu shot?

No. The viruses in the flu shots are either killed {inactivated} or recombinant {don’t contain virus particles}, so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. It is biologically unable to cause the flu illness.

Can you get the flu from the nasal spray vaccine?

The viruses in the nasal-spray vaccine are live but weakened and do not cause the severe symptoms that are often associated with influenza illness. Very rarely, the nasal spray vaccine virus has been transmitted to close contacts. It is important that the nasal spray vaccine only be used by healthy individuals ages 2 through 49.

How long is a person with flu virus contagious?

This depends heavily on the age and health of the person with the flu. You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.


Next Level Urgent Care was designed by a physician to give patients the kind of care they need and deserve. There are 8 locations throughout the greater Houston area, open 7 days a week from 9am – 9 pm. Visit to find a clinic in your neighborhood or like them on Facebook here to stay up to date on urgent and pertinent health topics too!

Please Note :: While this may be a sponsored post, all thoughts and opinions are our own.

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Tiffanie, originally from East Texas, has called Houston home for over 10 years now. She and her husband met during undergraduate studies at Stephen F. Austin State University. They have one son, Preston {Jan 2011}, who was born with a very rare congenital heart condition and underwent a very successful open heart surgery at Houston's own Texas Children's Hospital when he was just two days old. In October 2013, Tiffanie welcomed a daughter, Hadley, into this world. She adores seeing life and this great city through the eyes of her children. She is a practicing physician assistant, passionate about Endocrinology and diabetes. Committed to connecting moms and families to all the fabulousness of this great city, Tiffanie started serving as our Sponsorship Coordinator in January 2014. Her days are now filled to the brim with taking care of her family, her patients, fielding sales calls, and scheduling sponsored posts. Her favorite pasttimes include drinking a full-bodied glass of red, retail therapy, a nice long run, and being near a beach - water soothes her.


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