The flu is an illness caused by a virus. Like a cold, it attacks the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu can sometimes lead to other problems like pneumonia, ear and sinus problems, dehydration, and worsening of asthma. For most of us, the flu will go away in one-two weeks.
How can I catch the flu?
The flu is easily passed from person to person by coughing and sneezing.
A person can also get the flu by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Who is most at risk for getting the flu?
Everyone is at risk for getting the flu, but for some people the flu can cause serious illness. Those most at risk include:
- Older adults (over age 65)
- Pregnant women
- Very young children
- Adults and children (6 months and older) who have heart or lung disease, including asthma.
- Adults and children (6 months and older) who have diabetes, kidney or blood problems.
- People with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition that make it harder to fight off disease
- Children and teens (6 months to 18 years) who take aspirin for a long time
- People who live in nursing homes and other health care facilities
- Workers in hospitals or clinics who are around lots of people who have the flu. These people should contact their doctor or clinic if they have flu-like symptoms.
What are the signs of the flu?
- Headache and muscle ache
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Throwing up or diarrhea (more common in children).
How well does the flu shot work?
The shot prevents the flu in 70% to 90% of young, healthy adults. The shot doesn’t do as well at preventing flu in older adults and people with certain medical problems. But the shot does reduce the number of these people who die or need a hospital stay because of the flu. People who are allergic to eggs or who have had a reaction to the flu shot or vaccine should not be given the flu shot or nasal flu spray. Also, talk to your doctor if you have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome.
How well does nasal spray vaccine work?
This new vaccine can lower your chances of getting the flu. Children 5-8 years old need two doses at least 6 weeks apart in their first year of getting the Flu Mist, and people 9-49 need one dose.
Flu Mist should not be given to people with asthma or other lung diseases. Children under the age of 5 should not get the spray.
Are there drugs to treat the flu?
Yes, there are a number of products that may help you feel better:
Prescription medicines can lessen your symptoms or the time you are sick with the flu. Your doctor or clinic will help you decide whether these drugs are right for you.
Over-the-counter medicines can help with flu symptoms such as sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, fever and body aches. However:
Never give aspirin to children or teens who might have the flu. It can cause serious problems or even death. Call your doctor or clinic first.
If you already take prescription medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist which flu medicines you can use safely. For example, some over-the-counter flu products have medicines to treat a stuffy nose (decongestants), which can raise your blood pressure or even make your blood pressure medicines less effective.
No medicine can take the place of the flu vaccine
What should I do if I get the flu?
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of water or other liquids like juice and soup
- Don't spread your germs! Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often, and STAY HOME!
- Don't smoke or drink alcohol.
- Many other diseases can feel like the flu, but they need different treatments. Always go to your doctor or clinic if you feel worse.