What is the flu?
The flu is a respiratory illness that is caused by the influenza virus and infects the nose, throat and lungs. It is contagious from one day before displaying symptoms to five to seven days after getting sick, and for younger children, is contagious for a longer time. The severity of the flu varies from one season to the next. It usually causes mild to severe illness, and occasionally even death.
How does the flu infect your body?
The flu is mostly spread by tiny droplets that are made by people who have the flu when they sneeze, cough or talk. If these droplets are inhaled by or land in the mouths or noses of healthy people, it can infect those people with the flu too. A person can also be infected with the flu by touching a surface that has flu viruses on it, such as a doorknob or desk, and then touching their nose, eyes or mouth.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
People that are infected with the flu often have headaches, a sore throat, a cough, a runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Some people may have a fever as well as vomiting and diarrhea, though it is more common for children to have vomiting and diarrhea than adults. Also, only some people who contract the flu will have a fever.
How can the flu be treated?
The flu can be treated with antiviral drugs, which fight the influenza virus in your body. Antiviral drugs can reduce the severity of flu symptoms and shorten the time that you are sick by 1-2 days. Antiviral drugs can also prevent serious complications from the flu like pneumonia. People that have other medical conditions like diabetes, asthma or heart disease are at an extra risk for flu complications, and these antiviral medicines can help reduce their risk of complications. These medicines work best when they are started within two days of developing symptoms, and should usually be taken for five days. Side effects of antiviral drugs are rare, but can include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.
What are some methods of preventing flu transmission?
The best way to avoid catching the flu is to get a flu vaccine. This can take two forms: a flu shot or a nasal-spray vaccine. People who have the flu should stay home from school, and can help prevent spreading it by washing their hands after they cough or sneeze, and by covering their nose and mouth when they cough and sneeze. You should cough into your elbow instead of your hands so that you don't get the germs on your hands. Common surfaces, such as doorknobs and desks, can be cleaned to remove any influenza viruses. People who are not sick should wash their hands often, and make sure to drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.