Flu season is upon us. Dr. Jon McCullers, flu researcher and pediatrician in chief at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, explains the flu and how to protect your family.

Here are some of the key things parents should know:

  • Influenza is much more severe than the common cold. It can lead to being out of school or work for average of three days.
  • It’s important to get your flu vaccination. The vaccine works 70-90 percent of the time and leads to a milder case, if you do get the flu. Also, once flu season starts, stay out of crowds or away from people who are sick. Also wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Flu can lead to hospitalization for children. Children’s immune systems are not as developed. That’s why vaccinations and hand hygiene are so important.
  • The flu vaccine is extremely safe. It can be given to babies 6 months of age and older. It’s also recommended for pregnant women to protect both mom and baby.
  • Flu is spread by droplets that get on your hand that are passed to other objects. You can get them from touching those objects or from another person’s hand. They can also be passed through air when you sneeze or cough. That’s why it’s important to cover your cough. If you don’t have a tissue, cough into your sleeve so you don’t spread the flu particles in the air.
  • If you think you’re coming down with the flu (fever, cough or body aches), get to the doctor early. There are some medications that can shorten the course and the severity of the illness if treated early.