Flu (influenza)

What is the flu?

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Flu can be contracted by inhaling respiratory droplets produced an infected person's coughing or sneezing, or by touching a surface contaminated by the virus and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes. If someone has the flu, he or she is contagious from the day before the onset of symptoms up to seven days after getting sick. If you’d like to learn more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an excellent source of information about the flu.

 

What are the symptoms of the flu?

In most cases, symptoms of flu have a sudden onset. Symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath

Flu can lead to complications including bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes even when treated appropriately.

If you think you have the flu, visit your medical provider as soon as possible. Your doctor can perform a nasal-swab flu test that aids in diagnosing the flu.

 

How is the flu prevented?

The best protection against flu is getting a flu shot before flu season begins. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot each fall, including pregnant women. In addition to getting a flu shot, adhere to the following healthy practices:

  • Wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing, and wiping or blowing your nose.
  • Use paper tissues when wiping or blowing your nose and throw them away after use.
  • Cough into a tissue or the inside of your elbow instead of into your bare hand.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes, as germs enter the body through these openings.
  • Stay home if you have flu-like symptoms until you remain fever-free without fever medicine for 24 hours.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay away from crowds, if possible.
  • If a family member or other close associate like a roommate is diagnosed with the flu, there is a medicine you can be given to decrease your chance of getting the flu.


How is the flu treated?

If your medical provider has determined you are infected with the flu, he or she may prescribe anti-viral flu medication for you. The medication may reduce the duration of your illness if you begin taking it within 48 hours of the onset of your symptoms.

You can come into any Patient First center from 8 a.m. to 8 pm any day of the week - no appointment needed.

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