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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Fighting the Flu
Every year, millions of people will suffer from influenza, a highly contagious infection - more commonly known as the flu. Flu is caused by a germ, also called a virus which infects the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu virus spreads from person to person mostly by the germs that are coughed and sneezed out into the air. Once you are infected, symptoms start between 1-4 days later, with an average of 2 days.
Adults typically can spread the virus to others from the day before their symptoms begin. They can stay infectious as long as 5 days after their illness starts. Children can spread viruses for around 10 days. Persons with severely compromised immune systems, such as people with HIV or cancer, can shed virus for much longer periods of time.
Your best line of defense for staying healthy during the flu season is a yearly flu vaccine. Getting the flu vaccine can:
Once you are vaccinated, your body makes protective antibodies in about two weeks.
October through November is the best time to get vaccinated since flu activity usually starts in December. In the United States, flu activity generally peaks between late December and early March. After November, you can still benefit from getting the vaccine even if flu is present in your community.
Follow these simple steps to reduce your chance of getting the flu:
Watch video: What is the best protection against the flu?
While many symptoms of influenza and colds are similar, influenza comes on suddenly, resulting in increasing weakness. Influenza is NOT stomach flu. Tiredness – also called fatigue - and a dry cough caused by influenza can last for weeks.
Watch video: What are the symptoms of the flu?
If your doctor has told you that you have the flu, you should stay home and follow your doctor’s advice. You can treat flu symptoms with and without medicines. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about over-the-counter and prescription medicines. These may relieve your flu symptoms and help you feel better faster, they but will not make you less contagious.
Watch video: How do I treat the flu?
Watch video: What should I do if my child gets the flu?
Get medical care right away, either by calling your doctor or by going to an emergency room, if you or someone you know is having any of the signs described below or any other unusually severe symptoms:
When you arrive, notify the receptionist or nurse about your symptoms.
Keep the sick person comfortable and follow the advice of his or her health care provider. Keep others in the home healthy by washing hands and household surfaces frequently.
Find the Flu Shot in Your Area (Flu.gov)
Flu—Get the Shot (National Institute on Aging)
Seasonal Influenza (the Flu): Questions & Answers (CDC)
This article is based on information available at Flu.gov (http://www.flu.gov/symptoms-treatment/caring-for-someone/index.html) accessed November 2012.
Last Reviewed: Dec 10, 2012