little girl sneezing into a tissue 

Prevention & Treatment of Flu


Influenza viruses are primarily spread from person to person in respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. This happens when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled (generally up to three feet) through the air and land on the mouth or nose of people nearby.

The viruses can also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object, and then touches his/her own mouth or nose (or someone else's mouth or nose) before washing his/her hands.

Adults can shed the virus one day before developing symptoms, and up to seven days after getting sick. Young children can shed the virus for longer than seven days.


The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year. The following habits for good health can also help to protect against flu.

Habits for Good Health

The following steps may help to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as flu:

  • Avoid close contact

    Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick

    If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help to prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose

    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Clean your hands

    Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

    Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs, then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Antiviral Medications for PREVENTING Influenza

Three antiviral drugs (amantadine, rimantadine, and oseltamivir) are approved and commercially available for use in preventing flu. All of these medications are prescription drugs, and a doctor must be consulted before they can be used.

Antiviral Medications for TREATING Influenza

Two antiviral drugs (oseltamivir or zanamivir) have been approved for treatment of the flu. They both must be prescribed by a doctor. Antiviral treatment lasts for five days and must be started within the first two days of illness.

Antiviral drugs are effective only against influenza viruses; they will not help provide relief from symptoms associated with the common cold or many other flu-like illnesses caused by viruses that circulate in the winter.

Both of the antiviral drugs are different in terms of who can take them, how they are given, any dosing changes based on age or medical conditions, and side effects. A doctor can help to decide whether to get antivirals; and which one would be best for you.

Learn More

Please Note: All information is general in nature and should not substitute seeking proper medical attention.


Immunization Program

Boulder: 303-413-7500
Longmont: 303-678-6166
Submit a question


3450 Broadway
Map & Directions
Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. M-F


515 Coffman Street, second floor
Map & Directions
Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. M-F