Kid at the doctor's office.Seasonal Flu Tips

Please note: The information on this page is about seasonal flu.

The flu is a sickness that infects the nose, throat and lungs. Seasonal flu — the flu that comes year after year — begins in early October and lasts into May. It is caused by the influenza virus. Getting a flu shot each fall is the best way to prevent the flu.

Flu shots are FREE to all Oregon Health Plan members. Get a flu shot as soon as possible. Check with your primary care provider or your local pharmacy during the flu season to find out when you and your family can get flu shots.

Should I get a flu shot?

Yes, everyone ages 6 months and older should receive an annual flu vaccine unless there is a medical reason not to get one. The groups listed below are those people who are at higher risk for complications of flu, and who should get a flu vaccine as soon as it is available.

  • Children and adolescents ages 6 months to 59 months
  • Adults ages 50 and older
  • People who live or work in nursing homes and other long-term housing facilities for people with chronic medical conditions
  • People who have long-term health problems such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma, kidney disease or metabolic disease, such as diabetes, anemia and other blood disorders
  • People with certain muscle or nerve disorders that could cause breathing or swallowing problems (such as seizure disorders or severe cerebral palsy)
  • People with a weakened immune system due to:
    • HIV/AIDS or other diseases affecting the immune system
    • Long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids
    • Cancer treatment with X-rays or drugs
  • Women who are pregnant during flu season
  • Health-care workers, family members or anyone who provides direct patient care
  • Caregivers and people who have close contact to children 0 to 59 months old, adults 50 years and older and people with high-risk medical conditions
  • Anyone who wants to reduce their chance of getting flu should get a flu shot

Where can I get a flu shot?

  • To find a flu shot provider, you can use these resources:
    • Flu Shot Locator 
    • The Oregon Flu Hotline (1-800-978-3040)
    • SafeNet (503-988-5858). Outside the Portland metro calling area or for languages other than English, call toll free 1-800-SAFENET (1-800-723-3638).
  • Members who are 19 or older may get a flu shot from a participating pharmacy. Call your pharmacy to see if they provide flu shots. Take your ID card with you, so they know who to bill.
  • Members age 18 or younger should get a flu shot from their primary care provider.

Is it a cold or the flu?

The flu and the common cold are respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Antibiotics cannot cure a cold or the flu. Cold and flu symptoms are similar.

Signs and Symptoms
Onset Sudden Gradual
Fever Usually high (101-104◦ F), lasting 3 to 4 days Rare or rarely higher than 101◦ F
Cough Common, often dry and intense
Headache Strong Rare
Muscle Aches
Usual, often severe
Tiredness & Weakness
May last up to 2 to 3 weeks
Very mild and brief
Extreme Exhaustion
Early and strong
Chest Discomfort
Common; Can become severe Uncommon or wild
Runny or stuffy nose
Less Common Common
Sneezing Less Common Common
Sore Throat
Less Common Common
Stomach Symptoms
More common in children than adults


What about antiviral drugs?

Influenza antiviral drugs are prescription drugs that decrease the ability of flu viruses to reproduce.

Most people recover from influenza with no complications without using antivirals. In fact, using them improperly can make things worse by helping the virus develop resistance to drugs. A vaccine is a much more effective first line of defense against influenza.

For those reasons, the U.S. Government this year has decided that antiviral drugs should be used only for people who have gone to the hospital with influenza, and some who are at highest risk of influenza complications. Also, it’s recommended that doctors should decide on a case-by-case basis, based on the patient's particular needs and other factors, which of these patients should get the drugs.

More Seasonal Flu Information Online

Please note: These resources provide information about seasonal flu.

Facts About Seasonal Flu

Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine

Vaccine Information Sheet for Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (seasonal flu shots)