GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - It seems for many people, the questions about the flu are spreading faster than the infection itself.
And that's exactly why KARE 11 enlisted help from Patsy Stinchfield, the Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
When do I get my child to the doctor?
"If your child's not getting better after a respiratory illness for four or five days, have them checked. If your child is getting better and then suddenly gets worse, bring them in," she said.
What's the difference between getting the stomach flu and influenza?
"Stomach flu, vomiting, just feeling icky for 24 hours is not the influenza. Influenza tends to be very respiratory oriented and high fever," said Stinchfield.
She says high fever is typically considered 102 and greater. And there's almost always coughing and runny nose.
"Most of the time body aches, sometimes severe and really quickly. They're playing and they're having fun and then they're down," she added.
Does the flu shot work and is it too late to get one?
"Unfortunately, it's not a perfect vaccine. It's not a 100 percent effective. If you don't get the flu vaccine, you have zero protection," she said. "It's not too late. Influenza doesn't typically peak until mid-February. The vaccination will start the minute you get it and will build within about three weeks to give you good protection."
She says the vaccine is typically 60 to 80 percent effective.
When is someone the most contagious?
She says the tough part about influenza is you are the most contagious the day before you even get symptoms and then a couple days after.
"One of the hardest things about influenza is your most contagious the day before you come down with symptoms. So you could be talking, singing, sneezing, coughing and spreading influenza and not feel sick," she said.
Which is why it's so important to do the basics: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and get a flu shot.
Stinchfield tells people kids under the age of six months, the elderly, and people who suffer from underlying conditions are the most vulnerable.
Her advice to parents, trust your gut.
"If you say to yourself, I am so worried, that's what we're there for to have them checked out," she added.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)